tomato

Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world. On the continent, the country is ranked second (after Egypt) with about 1.8 million metric tonnes (mt), which she produces annually.With over 48 million tomato farmers across the country, Nigeria accounts for 65 per cent of tomatoes produced in West Africa.

Ironically, the country is also the largest importer of tomato paste in the world, importing an average of 150, 000mt of concentrate per annum, which is valued at $170m. Five years ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under Malam Lamido Sanusi, expressed worry about the N11.7billion the country was spending then to import 65, 809mt of processed tomato paste.

Represented by the then Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Mrs. Sarah Alade, at a one-day stakeholders’ forum on partnering to build a competitive tomato industry, Sanusi attributed the massive tomato import to the dysfunctional agricultural value chain system in the country.The dysfunctional value chain, he said, equally leads to a loss of about 50 per cent of the tomatoes produced in the country because of poor preservation, poor marketing, distribution hiccups and access to markets.

“There is the need for partnerships by producers with key processors to increase their competitiveness and locally sourced raw materials to replace imported tomato products, increase jobs in rural areas and reduce poverty,” he said, adding, “To this end, the CBN has been working assiduously with producers, leading processors and other stakeholders.”

Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano, further explained that the forum was intended to strengthen the country’s tomato industry, through partnerships in a bid to realise its potential in tomato production.Five years after the forum held, little or nothing has changed as far as tomato production in the country is concerned. If anything, the situation has just got worse.

Right now, the country’s current demand for fresh tomato fruits stands at about 2.45 million mt per annum, while it produces about 1.8 million mt. It also now imports 150, 000mt of concentrate per annum as against the 65, 809mt it did five years ago.Now, of the total fresh tomato fruits produced, 40 to 51 per cent never make it to the market due to post-harvest losses at the peak of production. These losses are put at approximately $15 billion.

A presidential master plan initiated by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration in 2012, which was designed to be achieved between 2012 and 2018, revealed that the country needed six million metric tonnes of tomatoes annually to meet her domestic needs and to begin export.The shortfall in the demand and supply gap is what has now given way for importers to have a field day, to the detriment of local farmers in particular and the country in general.

Agriculture experts are of the view that the country has all it takes to be self-sufficient in tomato production and for export, but the influx of imported substandard paste has continuously undermined the effort of local producers. Worried about this untoward development, the Tomato Union of Nigeria (TUN) in March last year urged the CBN to consider removing tomato paste triple concentrate from the forex policy restrictions, or provide the raw materials to the industry.

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