Text | David Ansell and Kenneth Lynch

Visuals | As mentioned

Issue 49 & 50


The urban areas of most developing countries have experienced very rapid and concentrated growth, creating an ever growing demand for food. The food supply systems grow in scale along with the city and become increasingly complex, such that it could be argued that an adequate and reliable food supply for the growing cities of Africa and Asia is one of the key urban problems today (Drakakis-Smith, 1991). Paddison et al (1990) suggest that the development and viability of cities in developing countries depends on the availability of sufficient food supplies for their population.

Despite the importance of urban food supply systems in the developing world, detailed empirical studies of the spatial structuring of retailing within cities are sparse and little attention has been given to the urban market. Dewar & Watson (1990) said they were ‘unable to find any literature’ dealing with market systems and their management. Although research has been carried out on rural markets (see Bromley 1974; 1979), studies of urban markets usually form a small part of general city reports and there have been a limited number of detailed studies of specific markets. For example Temple (1969) emphasized the importance of city planning regulations on the location of urban retail markets in Kampala, Boekholt & van der Veen (1986) focused on the population distribution and behaviour of the consumers as affecting demand strucutures, and therefore the location, of markets in Mysore. Finally, Mascarenhas and Mbilinyi, writing about the wholesale market chains of first oranges (Mascarenhas & Mbilinyi, 1971), and then bananas (Mbilinyi & Mascarenhas, 1973) focused in particular on the links between wholesale markets and the rural production areas in the case of single commodities, oranges and bananas. This is in marked contrast to literature on housing, ‘which is voluminous’ (Drakakis-Smith, 1991). The most significant recent publication relating to urban markets was the collection of essays edited by Guyer (1987) on African urban food systems. Guyer argues in her introduction that more attention is needed on urban food systems.

There are a number of reasons why there should be a greater research effort in this field by geographers. Food retailing and consumption occupy central positions within developing societies. These activities provide basic needs, a source of employment, and a vehicle for expressing social needs (such as a means for maintaining ethnic group solidarity or the need to maintain social stability over, for example, food shortages, as witnessed in Sudan in 1985). There should be a greater awareness of the spatial structure of retailing within the cities of the developing world, emphasising the distinctive social and institutional environments in which retailing occurs. Land markets, planning controls and social controls produce very different environments within the city. Global forces interact with local forces through markets, the supply of inputs, as well as the general economic and political circumstances, producing spatially distinctive patterns.

In relation to the retailing activities, Paddison et al, (1990) give a list of key research foci which they feel might be potentially fruitful for geographers to explore. They identify four areas of concern: structure of the retail trade; provisioning the city/rural areas; consumer behaviour; the state, public policy-making and retailing. Clearly, many of these topics are not the exclusive concern of the geographer. Food systems are the subject of study in such diverse disciplines as agriculture, anthropology, economics, geography, marketing, medicine, sociology and, doubtless, more besides. However in calling for an overall framework for the study of urban food distribution systems in Asia and Africa, Drakakis-Smith (1991) suggests that geographers are well placed to investigate the broad issues involved, since they ‘must focus on the social, cultural and political factors which affect the system.’

This paper draws on research undertaken in two major cities in the developing world. First an integrated approach is taken to identify and analyse the role of a wholesale market in an African urban food system. Secondly, the internal structure of one specific market in Karachi, Pakistan, is described and the changes found are examined. The discussion of these two cases will then be compared in the final discussion.

Case Study 1: Dar es Salaam
Kariakoo Wholesale Market in Dar es Salaam is of crucial importance to the fruit and vegetable supply system for Dar es Salaam. It is the only legal wholesale market for these commodities in the city. In spite of an increasingly important informal sector, Kariakoo still attracts considerable quantities of produce.

The history of Kariakoo dates back to 1914 when Tanganyika was a colony of Germany. On the site of today’s Kariakoo Market a building was erected to house the celebrations for the coronation of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. After the First World War the British Carrier Corps used the coronation building as a camp during the capture of Dar es Salaam from the Germans and the name of ‘Carrier Corps’, with the Swahili spelling, was adopted as the name of the building, and subsequently of the area that was built around it.

In 1919, the building was turned into a market catering for the Dar es Salaam population, with goods being sold on the floor of the building until the 1960s when concrete and cement stalls were constructed. However, it became evident, as the city’s population expanded in the early years of Independence, that the market was too small to cope with the volume of trade. Consequently, in 1970, the government finally approved the demolition of the old Kariakoo market building to make way for a “modern building of artistic design” (Marketing Development Bureau, 1985). This new building was planned to meet the needs of the city for its expected growth over the next 50 to 70 years.

The entire complex is owned and operated by Kariakoo Market Corporation (KMC), a company owned jointly by central government and the Dar es Salaam City Council. The main wholesale trading floor is 2,400 square metres, commodities being grouped together on the trading floor. The current Kariakoo wholesale market for fruit, vegetables and fish is in the basement of the main building. A street next to this building is also used for wholesaling and retailing coconuts and the streets around the market are frequently used for retailing. The trading floor is served by a through road entering and exiting the basement via ramps to and from the road level. The loading bay area of about 1,000 square metres with eight loading bays (see Figure 1) and during busy periods, including the period of this survey, part of this is used as a spill-over trading area.

Pedestrian access to the trading area is restricted to two stairways at the opposite end of the basement from the access ramps. The area at this end of the trading floor is used for sub-wholesaling. The immense volumes of fruit and vegetables handled in Kariakoo have meant that all the storage rooms and cold stores have had to be opened up for use as trading floor space. Access to each room is restricted to a single door and this exacerbates the congestion experienced in the market.

When it was completed in 1975: as the only legally specified wholesale market for fruit and vegetables in Dar es Salaam, the building was designed to handle approximately 30,000 metric tonnes of produce per year. The wholesale market reported a peak annual delivery of 92,787 tonnes between July 1980 and June 1981, and has been handling

David Ansel’ and Kenneth Lynch approximately 70,000 tonnes annually since 1983 (Lynch, 1994). However, at the time the new market complex came into operation, it accounted for an estimated 90 per cent of Dar es Salaam’s fruit and vegetable wholesaling, whereas it accounted for an estimated 60-70 per cent by the early 1990s (Lynch, 1992). Indeed, Kariakoo has not been able to absorb the increased fruit and vegetable trade because of the physical constraints of limited capacity, as indicated by the relatively stable levels of goods passing through the wholesale market since 1981. An additional factor in the reduced importance of Kariakoo as a wholesale market is the 6 per cent commission charged on produce, which both ‘pushes’ and ‘pulls’ traders into ‘informal wholesaling’ on the ‘parallel market’, in the city’s retail markets or literally from the back of a lorry. This means that up to 40 per cent of fruit and vegetables entering the city of Dar es Salaam may not be levied a commission.

Kariakoo was intended to play the central role in the distribution of fruit and vegetables to the Dar es Salaam population. The government-owned KMC was given a degree of control over the market. Consequently, it vets and registers traders, monitors and levies a commission on produce entering the market, charges traders for market facilities and sets price guide-lines. In this way, it was hoped to bring the marketing channels under central control and protect the supply chain to the city population from speculators and racketeers. A further source of fruit and vegetables, becoming increasingly important in Dar es Salaam, is urban and peri-urban agriculture (Briggs, 1991; Lynch, 1994; 1996; Schippers & Lewcock, 1994). It is very difficult to estimate how important this practice currently is, but observations around the city clearly demonstrate its importance; Dar es Salaam residents report that they and their neighbours are increasingly turning to this strategy for obtaining food (see Briggs, 1990; 1991). A discussion of this would necessitate more space than is available here, but a growing literature is available (Binns & Lynch, 1996; Sawio, 1993; 1994; Stevenson et al, 1994; Schippers & Lewcock, 1994). Sporrek (1985) discusses a number of stages in the development of an urban marketing chain system. He sets out to analyse the city’s retail structure and suggests that the early stage of market development involves, firstly, direct producer-consumer and producer-producer transactions, either by cash or by barter. Secondly, a number of individuals with capital are able to begin trading full-time and facilitate the trade between the producers and consumers. The final stage is where an organised state intervention facilitates the marketing and at the same time regulates the prices, ensuring a minimum of exploitation by the middlemen.

When Sporrek (1985) carried out his fieldwork, the Dar es Salaam food system had reached the final centralised stage. In twenty out of the twenty-five food commodities he examined 95 per cent or more sellers bought from Kariakoo. Since that time, however, Kariakoo has reached an apparent wholesale ceiling capacity of approximately 70,000 tonnes annually (Lynch, 1994). The increase in demand for fruit and vegetables in Dar es Salaam can be expected to increase with the growth of population. This suggests that the increase in demand for fruit and vegetables is being met through channels other than Kariakoo. This being the case, Kariakoo will continue to account for a decreasing proportion of the city’s wholesaling activities, with suppliers seeking alternative outlets for their produce. In order to establish the role Kariakoo now plays in the food system, analysis of the influence of the market at each stage in the supply channels, from rural producer to urban consumer, is necessary. This highlights a number of key issues, which will now be discussed. Perishability is a major problem in the transportation of these goods. The process of decomposition begins as soon as the fruit or vegetable has been picked or harvested (Jones, 1987). This process can be slowed by keeping the goods in low temperatures and preventing damage by bruising. In Tanzania fruit and vegetables are packed by the producers or the transporters into a container that is both easily handled and gives a level of protection to the goods. These are made from locally available materials and range from large woven baskets, to used plastic fertiliser bags, to, as in the case of coconuts and pineapples, simply being handled individually. Grass and other vegetation is often used for additional protection. The results are not ideal, as the grass can decompose, increasing the heat, decreasing the ventilation and, therefore, the rate of perishability. However these are effective methods of packaging, which the market may be able to afford. Refrigeration and refrigerated transport would clearly be the ideal technological solution. However, the capital investment involved in this type of technology is not available. Jones (1987) suggests that attempts to store fresh produce in Tanzania have tended to rely too much on expensive technology. For example, he suggests that in order to store fruit at a temperature of 10-12° C “a simple fan blowing air into a store through as box containing straw with water dripping through is an effective device which also has the advantage of maintaining the – humidity required to prevent the fruit from drying out” (Jones, 1987, p.26-27). He also suggests that it may be profitable to examine the possibility of using recently developed technology in solar powered refrigeration. • The significance of the high perishability of some goods is that the role Kariakoo plays in the system is significantly reduced. The three main regions from which citrus fruit are obtained for Dar es Salaam are Morogoro, mainly from the eastern Uluguru Mountains; Tanga, mainly – from Korogwe and Muheza Districts in the north; and Coast Region, from south of the city and from Kisarawe District, to the south west. Without records it is impossible to calculate accurately the actual levels of importance of the citrus wholesale markets. However, qualitative data, such as interviews with Dar es Salaam retailers suggest that the – importance of Kariakoo Wholesale Market is being undermined by other markets such as Tandale and Tandika, to the west and south of the city centre, as shown in Table 1.

The route by which the fruit is brought into the city determines to a great extent which market is predominantly used for wholesaling the deliveries. For example, citrus supplied from south of the city favours the use of Tandika market, because of its location near the main road into the city from the south. When fruit from the north or west of the city is in season, Tandale market is favoured because of its location on the Morogoro Road, which is the main route into the city from both the north and the west. Lynch (1992) suggests that Kariakoo, because of its central location, congestion and commission charged, is by-passed in an attempt to distribute these highly perishable commodities rapidly to the retail outlets. He suggests that Buguruni Market is becoming increasingly important as a point of entry to the Dar es Salaam marketing system for citrus fruits from Kisarawe. Street traders and door-to door sellers are an important element of the marketing of citrus fruits the reason being that the highly perishable nature of citrus fruits makes it necessary for these traders to make frequent small purchases. Although they sell smaller quantities, they have almost no overheads, their costs being the price of the produce and the cost of the transport, usually a bus fare. Because of the dispersed nature of citrus fruit retailing in the city, the wholesaling system has evolved a relatively dispersed geographical pattern more appropriate to the needs of all the participants. For example, street traders, in an effort to minimise their costs, trade-off lower market prices, which may be available at a more distant market in the city, with lower transport costs, obtained by going to a market which is nearer their retail point. Under these circumstances Dar es Salaam’s fruit wholesaling is de-centralising in response to the location of retail outlets, which in turn are located close to consumers

By contrast, the vegetable supply system for Dar es Salaam demonstrates that Kariakoo has a far greater degree of prominence for vegetables than for citrus fruits. The producers interviewed in the rural areas, who were mainly vegetable producers, gave far greater significance to Kariakoo as the wholesale market they favour in Dar es Salaam (Lynch, 1992). Analysis of the Kariakoo Wholesale Market data suggests that vegetables have increased in relative importance in the wholesale market during the 1980s (Lynch, 1992). The ability to store produce overnight at Kariakoo is unlikely to be perceived as an important advantage by citrus fruit traders, unless refrigeration facilities become available, particularly where temperatures can exceed 30 degrees centigrade. Most vegetables, on the other hand, are less perishable and, therefore, they can be stored for longer periods, allowing the dealer more time to secure an optimum price. Unlike the open air markets, Kariakoo has loading and unloading facilities for dealing with bulk deliveries arriving on large lorries. These include loading bays and relatively easy access to the trading floor. Its size attracts a large number of buyers, including institutional buyers, who are assured a relatively large selection of commodities. Few vegetables are produced south of the city, making Tandika’s role significantly reduced. Tandale, however, is located on the main route into the city from all of the areas producing vegetables, and is considered among retailers to be a market of considerable and, significantly, increasing importance in the wholesaling of vegetables. In the case of vegetables, therefore, because of their less perishable nature, the pattern of supply is different. The more centralised system of wholesaling appears to suit these commodities. Vegetable wholesalers do not have the same time constraint due to perishability faced by retailers of fruits.

Figure 2 presents the system in terms of the relationships of each of the groups involved in the fruit and vegetable supply system. The rural producers in their search for buyers may sell legally to rural-based traders or urban-based wholesalers in Kariakoo Wholesale Market. However, it may be more convenient or more profitable for them to sell to informal sector wholesalers, retailers or direct to consumers. The latter strategies reduce the proportion of the retail margins lost to middle agents. The rural-based traders can be divided into two broad groups. Firstly, the “occasional” trader, who buys perhaps a sack of a commodity to take on a long journey. This sack will either be sold on arrival at a market in order to defray the cost of transport, or presented to a friend or relative, with whom the traveler may stay, as payment for accommodation. This form of trade is what Maliyamkono & Bagachwa (1990) call a ‘shuttle’ marketing channel. The second type of rural trader is involved in trading on a full-time, or almost full-time basis. These traders usually buy sufficient quantities t o fill a hired lorry, either alone or jointly with another trader. On entry to the city, the rural trader is obliged to sell produce through the regional trading company, which in Dar es Salaam is the Kariakoo Wholesale Market. The evidence presented in this study suggests that only about half of the wholesaling at this level takes place through the formal marketing channel. The model in Figure 2 distinguishes between the channels which are in the formal sector, in other words, produce which is sold wholesale in Kariakoo and which is then channelled to retail outlets, and those in the informal sector, in other words, produce entering the city marketing system without passing through Kariakoo Wholesale Market. The model shows the alternative channels in the informal sector through which produce is distributed. The most important channels are where produce is sold to informal wholesalers in the main retail markets. For example, this study has presented evidence that a proportion of the produce supplied to Dar es Salaam’s market from areas south of the city, enters the city’s marketing system through Tandika market. However, some traders sell direct to consumers, and some producers bring their own produce into the city and either sell to retailers or direct to consumers. This latter alternative is only usually an option where the producer is selling small quantities of highly perishable produce, such as spinach, tangerines or tomatoes. In the case of spinach, producers are located in and around Dar es Salaam and sell the produce to consumers themselves. The highly delicate and perishable nature of this leafy vegetable requires that it is consumed within hours of cutting, therefore a longer and more complicated marketing channel would result in delays to the speedy distribution of the produce.

In summary, the literature has focused in particular on government policy, consumer behaviour or market structure. The research carried out in Dar es Salaam suggests a complex series of processes which influence urban food systems. These include methods of storage and transport, the different perishability rates of commodities and the location of production in relation the city.

Case Study 2: Karachi
In 1970 Karachi was not listed among the world’s thirty largest cities, but by 1990 it was ranked 21st and by 2010 some estimates put it in the top five, with a population exceeding 20 million. This rapid growth has produced what Newsline, a journal published in Karachi, described as a city

“where the maps end and God and the government have half a hand in running the place…. since everyone here has his heart somewhere else, Karachi is a city emotionally abandoned and disowned by its citizens” (July 1994).

Empress Market, the subject of the second part of this paper, is found near the centre of this ‘nightmare city’.

In the nineteenth century, state and private initiative worked together to build up commercial life in Karachi. On the state side, enclosed markets and a closely bounded shopping quarter were laid out, while private initiative led to strong growth, a multiplicity of differentiated goods offered, and a spatial selection of commodity goods and groups. In 1914 there were eight markets and 180 shops (Scholz, 1972). By 1970 this had increased to 40 markets and over 28,000 shops. The first open public markets were urban spaces and squares. These were replaced in the 1880s by market halls. By 1969 there were 38 markets of which 24 were retail and the rest wholesale. Each market only embraced one commodity group. These markets were scattered around the city but each was in an area where the population was sufficient to use it.

Empress Market is the largest in Karachi, located in the north of Sadar Bazaar (Sadr: Arabic word meaning ‘chief’ or `supreme’). A bazaar is defined here as being a quarter containing a number of stores and shops, the property of distinct owners, but it is not unusual to find a market situated in its midst. The market was opened on 21st March 1889. It was “a very handsome building, designed in what is known as ‘domestic Gothic style’ by the indefatigable municipal engineer Mr James Strachan” (Baillie, 1890). The original building consisted of four galleries, 46 feet in width, surrounding an open quadrangle 130 feet long and 100 feet broad (13,000 square feet), with a range of buildings behind the main market, the whole affording accommodation for 280 shop and stall keepers. The south front has a tower 140 feet high, rising from the centre, in which there is a large clock with four skeleton iron dials. The high building cost, Rs 120,000, is likely to have contributed to the reasons why it took five years to finish. It was regarded as being second only to Crawford Market in Bombay. More recently it has been described as

“like some well-born governess who has through some quirk of unfortunate circumstances been forced to take up employment; is has tended to the needs of its charges – generations of Karachi’s population – with lofty dignity” (Aijuddin, 1994). Empress Market is primarily a food retail market. Scholz (1972) describes the market as once a place for ‘socially sophisticated shoppers’, but now the more discerning customer might be looking elsewhere as the number of traders has increased and the quality of goods is possibly not as high as it was. The market still serves some higher-income customers, however, including foreigners. Stalls on the periphery have lower quality products sold to the high number of people passing by. Traders in the inner market serve customers who have come there specifically to buy their goods, usually ladies or servants of higher social ranks. Stalls on the outskirts are set up for occasional customers and rely on people going in and out of the inner market. Empress Market is a major changeover for bus routes, and hawkers have congregated here for this reason. They come from the lowest social level and have only a small amount of money at their disposal, therefore the fruit and vegetables they buy, to re-sell are of low quality. They pay only a few rupees to rent their pitch so it is possible for them to make a living. Some customers use hawkers if they cannot find what they want in the inner market, or are in a hurry. In total there are almost 1,000 stores or stalls in the market. Of these around 330 sell food and 465 non-food items (145 were used for storage or were closed when the market was surveyed in August 1994). In addition to these there is a large fish market and an even larger area given over to meat. Although Scholz gives a map of the market this is very generalised and, in places, inaccurate. Figure 3 shows the market as it was in August 1994. It can be seen that functional zoning is certainly a feature. There are areas where a particular item accounted for most of the stores present: textiles in the south-east; sandals in the northern part of the western section; nuts in the inner circle of the south-west; groceries in the galleries of the main building; vegetables in the north-west, and the area to the north of the main building; electrical repair work in the northern half of the south-east; eggs birds and poultry in the northern section on the eastern side. There also, of course, the fish and meat halls.

This functional zoning has its advantages. Eggs, birds and poultry are near the eastern side where it is easier to load and unload. The passageway here is largest in the market. This also aids the vegetable sellers. In the north-west vegetable sellers are close to the road, again making unloading easier. Maybe the only problem created by this zoning is the fish hall. It is in the middle of a fairly congested area and fish has to be brought in, often in wheel-barrows, covered in ice, through a series of small passageways. No doubt in earlier days the fish hall stood in a more open area and deliveries were not a problem.

Scholz’ (1972) earlier map of Empress Market is highly generalised and, for some areas, especially the north, inaccurate. The fish hall is not shown at all although it was one of the original buildings. In some areas the goods and services on offer have changed over the past twenty-five years reflecting a change in consumer demand and, quite possibly in consumers themselves.

Originally the western section of the market was a garden, but this has long gone. Today the area is divided into two by a passageway leading into the main building. Scholz found that the southern part of this area sold books, writing materials and tobacco. Today the tobacco has been replaced by nuts and the rest of the area, although maintaining its function, has been modified with numerous vendors offering the services of photocopying machine, laminators, book binding, and letter writers using electronic typewriters. Although more ‘hi-tech’, the computer has yet to make an inroad here. The northern part of the western side changed from selling ropes and baskets to sandals, around fifteen years ago. Rope selling is no longer profitable and baskets have given over to the ubiquitous plastic carrier bag. The eastern section is also divided into two with the southern half almost entirely composed of small textile stores and tailors. Although Scholz (1972) shows the northern part of this side as warehouses it is composed of many small offices and, in one part, a number of small electrical repair shops.

The main building has changed little since its construction but the stores within it are no longer as prosperous. ‘Coolies’ wait at the entrance to escort some shoppers and tell them of the day’s best buys. The open quadrangle originally contained 22 wooden cabins which were allocated to vendors. These were removed in 1970. Several of the stores that exist today well a number of canned and packaged goods. The same is true of stores within the galleries which have changed from selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Shelves have been constructed to stock and display more goods and several stores have refrigerators and sell meat and buttes. In the south-west corner Paradise Store, Shop No 1, resembles a small supermarket, with goods stacked almost to the ceiling. Many of these stores once served the hotels of Karachi but now hotel owners prefer to go to supply larger companies, such as Standard Products.

The northern section is the main fruit and vegetable area. Stalls often take the form of large plinths upon which vegetables are displayed. This area also sells chickens along with geese, ducks and other birds. Some of these are sold as pets as are small monkeys, but larger monkeys are sold as meat along with rabbits. Eggs are sold in vast quantities, often to be resold by small retailers using bicycles. Many small stores sell sweets and biscuits, cooking oil and other food products. This area is the busiest part of the market, but also the worst kept. Much of it is open to the elements and the floor is often uneven, broken, and is easily flooded. Some surfaces are simply earth which is quickly turned to mud.

Many traders in the market complain about its upkeep. When it rains several areas are easily flooded and the rains are always followed by power cuts. Facilities for market traders are quite good with several cafes and hot-food sellers. Lavatory and washing facilities, however, leave a lot to be desired. Part of the rent paid by vendors is meant to go towards cleaning the market but traders feel this rarely happens. The floor of the quadrangle used to be washed every day but traders feel this practice is long gone. Garbage is collected from the northern section every day between 3 and 5 p.m. Rubbish around the edge of the market, however, is not so easily removed. The very presence of the street sellers makes it difficult to clear this area. Trucks unloading fruit and vegetables in the western section are often parked for much of the day, thereby adding to the problem of collecting waste. This accumulation of rubbish helps reduce the effectiveness of the drainage system and, therefore, increases the occurrence of floods in the area.

As Figure 3 shows, over half the stores sell non-food products, though many of these are extremely small and cover less than half the market area. It is a vital food outlet for the poor but many traders find it difficult to compete with the increasing number of supermarkets which give a greater variety of goods on sale along with an improved shopping environment and better standards of hygiene. The urban poor, however, cannot afford the packaged and tinned goods now on sale. Without the support of the higher income customers some traders may have to move out of Empress Market and, therefore, its future may be at risk.

Furthermore its position, close to the centre of Karachi, puts Empress Market under additional pressure to change. City authorities are becoming increasingly aware of the appearance of their cities. City centres are becoming clogged with traffic. The build up of rubbish may constitute a health risk. There appears to be a contradiction between the idea of the modernising city and the traditional market. Markets can be removed to a more peripheral location but this also removes them from many of their customers. It is possible to improve city centres without removing markets completely. Examples proposed have included the creation of one way traffic, the re-planning of old dilapidated souk area or the relocation of grain sellers (see Post, 1992), but this is often seen as meeting the problem only half way.

Proposals for the restoration and refurbishment of Empress Market were made in 1989, but it is only recently that they have received serious consideration. Restoration would begin from the northern side with the construction of a sunken open-air shopping area of three floors. The entire area would house 2,000 shops and stall. The main building would be occupied by up-market shops and the large halls used for conventions and exhibitions – ‘a befitting city centre for pulsating Karachi!’ (Anon., 1995). In front of the main building there will be a large square with fountains, trees and lawns. Gas-lit Victorian lamps and wrought iron park benches will help to make the area a focal point. The sketches showing an artist’s impression of Empress Market for the year 2005 make it look more like a western shopping mall. The shoppers depicted are all wearing suits and are most definitely the well paid. Whereas this might enhance Karachi, the ‘nightmare city’, one wonders what it will do to help provide food and employment for the urban poor.

In summary, the literature has focused on the system into which urban markets supply. The case study of Empress market enters the marketplace and discovers changes to the market structure brought about by changing demands of the population. Future changes may well be influenced significantly by the cultural aspirations of the city planning authority and the city’s elite.


The liberalisation of the grain marketing has resulted in wholesale grain trading legally taking place in Dar es Salaam’s retail markets. This has encouraged confidence in fruit and vegetable wholesalers to continue and expand their still technically illegal businesses. It provides a framework into which aspects of the previous approaches can be integrated. This gives a clearer overall picture of the production and distribution of fruit and vegetables for Dar es Salaam and how this system has developed over the last decade. The reorganisation of Empress Market’s role in central Karachi is influenced by growing demands from an increasingly economically influential elite. These two cases show differences in roles and contexts, but this paper contributes a necessary component in an otherwise ‘patchy’ field of research, providing an interpretation of likely futures.

In Dar es Salaam the liberalisation of the marketing channels for staple foods, resulting in the open wholesaling of these commodities in various locations around the city of Dar es Salaam, has been successful in encouraging the informal trading of fruit and vegetables especially since the mid-1980s. Kariakoo Wholesale Market nevertheless still remains an important focus for urban marketing channels of fruit and vegetables in Dar es Salaam, despite the changes brought about by economic liberalisation since the mid 1980s. Kariakoo Wholesale Market is currently unable to increase its volume of turnover due to severe restrictions of space. If Kariakoo Market Corporation is to continue its role of providing facilities for the city’s wholesale trading, it must acquire considerable extra trading space which is not available in its current location. The proportion of turnover of vegetables at Kariakoo Wholesale Market has increased from 36 per cent of all trade in 1981 to almost 60 per cent by 1988 (Lynch, 1992). The fruit produce is increasingly channelled through other market centres in Dar es Salaam.

In Karachi the growing congestion around and inside the market and the growing competition is forcing the market also to reconsider its role as a central market in the city. Clearly it cannot increase its market area, it will have to reconsider its function and the market to which it sells.

Both markets are large and have found it difficult to respond to the rapidly changing economic and social circumstances of their cities. In order to survive as important in their respective economies, both are having to consider focusing their attentions on part of their current activities and follow the lead of the market. In Dar es Salaam, the KMC is considering a geographically peripheral site to develop as a new wholesale market, something which the informal sector has in part already done. In Karachi, the city is considering ambitious plans to re-invent Empress as a shopping center which sells modern consumer items in the impressive architectural environment of the renovated building. Both are curious juxtapositions of past and present. In Dar es Salaam the building is unashamedly modernist and the foundations of KMC centralist, in Karachi the building is colonial and the foundation of the activities, a mix of traditional sadr bazaar and colonial engineering.

All over the post-colonial world such large scale structures were constructed and they are attempting to maintain their role within a rapidly changing urban environment. In rapidly growing cities, such as the two case studies examined in this paper, there is a need for a greater understanding of the current role of these markets. Clearly their strategic and economic influence has waned. However, they are both located in economically vibrant districts. They are both close to the centre of the cities’ bus networks. They also both remain symbolic economic and market centers which could play important roles in the future development of their cities.

The small body of literature on these issues agrees: there is currently a limited amount of data or previous research to work with and consequently research is also lacking. Future research, therefore, must continue to develop an integrated approach to the problem of city food supply and the role of city markets. As this paper has demonstrated, different priorities are brought to the fore by different perspectives and approaches. Such an integrated approach will involve researching the problem from several perspectives, incorporating a range of data.

We thank Prof John Briggs and Dr Haroon Akram-Lodhi for advice and supervision, Deborah Millard for cartography and Robert Gant for his helpful comments on an earlier draft. Thanks to George Jambiya and Mark Pethick for local advice and assistance. The research in Tanzania was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.



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