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Produce Haulage: Taking Food To End Users, Making Money

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HaulageFARM produce would not get to end users if those in the chain of distribution fail to carry out their duties. Identifying this important role, some investors have ventured into inter and intra-state produce distribution on a small scale to make money and also to move the various food items from one geographical location to the other.

These investors go to the rural areas, get the produce from the farmers and bring them to the urban centres. Though, they operate at different levels, big and small scale, the small scale operators, most time continue from where the bigger ones stopped, because they have to carry the good to the nooks and crannies of the city, where the bigger operator ordinarily cannot get to. No matter the levels they operate, the business has helped to take the burden of food produce distribution off the shoulders of farmers, who now wait for buyers in their farms.

According to Mustapha Ali, who brings in different farm produces from Benue State to Lagos, the business involves trust and integrity on the part of the small-scale haulage outfits.
“To excel in the business operator has to be trustworthy and convince ones customers that he cannot run away with their goods or tamper with them. Besides, some of the traders do not know the end users; so, they entrust operators with the responsibilities of delivering their produce and remitting the money. Another group of customers expect operators to only carry the produce to the large-scale buyers and collect their money, which often times runs into several millions of Naira.
“Doing this involves trust and credibility, which is the reason one’s attitude is important and could take one to the pinnacle of the business,” he said.

Apart from these virtues, Amosun, who operates from Mile 12 disclosed that one needs to know his routes very well, understand how to locate the various addresses and even know when to move so that much time would not be spent on traffic hold up.
“It’s not only knowing how to drive, one should be able to locate any of the addresses in his route. He should be able to also identify, when the roads are less busy so that the driver need not spend so much time on the road and at times know when to drive at night to avoid unnecessary police checkpoints,” he stated.

Are these what a new entrant needs know to be in the business? Rotimi Akinbowale said no. According to him, one must first register with the various unions in the market with fees ranging from N50,000 to N200,000, depending on the unions, then get a very good vehicle, preferable a pickup van and pick a route to ply. If someone is already handling a particular route another may be assigned. This is done to monitor operators; especially those that may want to pull a fast on the customers. Once a customer reports an operator and he his investigated and discovered to be culpable, he would be punished.
“A new entrant needs to have between N50,000 to N200,000 for registration and then have a very strong vehicle, preferably pickup vans. But in a situation, where he could not get a pickup van, a strong saloon car can equally do the job; but emphasis is on strong vehicle, so that traders or customers would not face problem of boarding a vehicle that breaks down easily on the road,” he said.

Looking at the business, one may think the money invested in registration and acquiring the vehicle is a waste, especially as the vehicles have to ply bad rural roads and owners have to spend good money on repairs.

The business is like a pack and pick venture, you do not go canvassing for customers, so far you are trustworthy and has a strong vehicle you are on the go, because the association organises those going to a particular route and assigns a vehicle or an operator to them. All one needs to do is to pay the regular dues to enjoy this privilege.

Okon disclosed that the business brings in good money to take care of all that; in fact, it’s return on investment is most time underrated because people tend to see it as dirty business meant for people of little or no higher education.
“I make at least N150,000 in a week of four days. I had to resign from my teaching job to do it full time. I go to Mile 12 Market four time a week, pick my turn and load. I have 33 customers on my route and more are still coming. And in each of the four days I carry the wares of 10 to 15 people in by mini truck. Each pays at least N2,000, some pay, as much as N10, 000 to N20,000, depending on the volume; then tell me, why I should not face it full time.
“For the five years I have been in the business, I have no regret resigning. I have recouped all the money invested, including the N450,000 for purchase of my pickup van within the first six months of doing the job. I work for four days because we load in turns; so mine is just within four days.”

If the business is as rewarding as professed with so much time, why then do operators use rickety vehicles?
Abimbola observed that it depends on individual operators. According to him, operators, who ply inter-state use well kept vehicle, while the rickety ones do intra state. He, however, explained that the body of the vehicle should not be used to judge performance, as the engine determines the load a particular vehicle can carry. So, don’t be surprised to see vehicles cram passengers in the cabin and still carry very heavy loads.
“I have three trucks running for me. I made all the money for the trucks in the business. There is huge profit in the business, but you must first invest. And the more money one wants the bigger one needs to invest” he said.

On how to get customers to patronize them, Abimbola revealed that the association does that, which is the reason for collecting registration fees and other dues.
“The business is like a pack and pick venture, you do not go canvassing for customers, so far you are trustworthy and has a strong vehicle you are on the go, because the association organises those going to a particular route and assigns a vehicle or an operator to them. All one needs to do is to pay the regular dues to enjoy this privilege.
“I only get the addresses of the people in the vehicle or at times the addresses of where to drop the goods in case the goods are not accompanied. So, I drop and get my money,” he said.

On some of the challenges, Baba Ijesha disclosed that the risks involved are minimal, and requires trust.
“Aside fatal accidents, the risks involved are very low. I have been in the business for 10 years; I have not encountered any even though I have three vehicles plying Mile 12-Badary, Mile 12-Yaba and Mile 12-Ikorodu routes.

However, some of the reports we do hear people say bother on drivers selling off customer’s goods or some mischievous passengers stealing other passenger’s goods.
“But for others such as police accusing us of overloading and vehicles breakdown, that can be easily settled among us,” he said.

Advising new entrants to either handle it themselves or allow someone with the knowledge and experience of the business to manage it for them, Akeem disclosed that one must be wary of those who in running the business come up with various excuses all with the aim to defraud the owner.


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