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Reasons Nigeria is not doing well in global tomato market

Despite being the 14th highest producer of tomato in the world and fourth in terms of areas harvested, Nigeria is not a dominant player in…

Despite being the 14th highest producer of tomato in the world and fourth in terms of areas harvested, Nigeria is not a dominant player in the global market for value-added tomato products. 

This, experts believe, is due to her abysmal 160th position in the world in terms of yield. 

In Nigeria, reports indicate that the average yield under the current condition is about 15-30 MT/ha as against over 90MT/ha in other more developed climes for most varieties. 

Although tomato can be cultivated in all the ecological zones of the country, national annual production is only about 1.8 million metric tonnes, even as national demand is estimated at 2.4 million tonnes, a document from the Raw Material Research Development Council (RMRDC) has shown. 

Also, due to lack of storage facilities, ailing processing industries and poorly developed marketing channels, up to 50 per cent of the tomato produced suffer post-harvest losses, thereby widening the gap between demand and supply. 

The Director-General of the RMRDC, Professor Ibrahim Hussaini Doko, noted that in 2020, for instance, 62,205.06 MT of tomato paste, equivalent of 407,572.39MT of fresh tomato valued at N16b, was imported. 

According to him, the importation of triple concentrate tomato,  the major raw material for the production of canned tomatoes in 2020 alone was about 653,715.12 tonnes, which amounted to N4.41 billion, while that of ketchup and other sauces was over N2.96 billion.   

He said the situation prompted the current administration to include tomato processing into paste and other products as a major strategy for achieving the industrial component of its Economic Growth and Recovery Plan in 2016. 

This, he said, led to placement of ban on importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate put up for retail  and others HS Code 2002.90.20.00, tomatoes prepared or preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid and others HS Codes 2002.10.00; 2002.90.19.00; 2002.90.90.00 and the inclusion of tomato ketchup and other sauces HS Code 2103.20.00.00.   

The policy, he added, also led to the increase in the tariff on  non-triple concentrate and other concentrate, HS Code 2002.90.11.00 from 5 per cent to 50 per cent and an additional levy of $1500/MT. 

The result of the policy was a renewed interest and investments in local processing of tomatoes championed by Dangote Industries, Savannah Intergrated Farms Ltd, Tomato Jos, GBfoods, Erisco Foods Ltd and other entrepreneurs.  

Daily Trust on Sunday, which has been monitoring the subsector, reports that the policy may suffer a setback despite the gains if corresponding structures are not put in place. For instance, internal industrial capacity is low, due mainly to the scarcity of processed grade tomato fruits, coupled with high post-harvest losses, poor yield per hectare, high production cost and competition from cheap imports, which make domestic processing non-competitive.

This seems to have informed the reason why the federal government, through the RMRDC, commenced an assessment of the tomato industry across its value chains, with a view to checkmating further decline. 

The outcome of the assessment recommended aggressive production of processing grade fruits through captive, contract and out-growers farming schemes across states with favourable climate for tomato production, increased research and development on improved seeds development, small scale processing (to feed larger packers), improved agricultural practices and extension services as panaceas to ameliorating the identified challenges. 

Following this, the federal government, through the RMRDC, initiated a programme directed at increasing production of industrial varieties of tomato at competitive cost among farmers and to promote backward integration amongst processors. 

Through the programme, the Council provided improved tomato seeds to vegetable farmers in more than 28 states since the 2015/2016 cropping season.  Benefiting states such as Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Kaduna Oyo, Benue, Gombe, Katsina, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Ondo, Enugu, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Delta, Jigawa and Sokoto states have cumulatively received more than three metric tonnes of improved open pollinated tomato seeds with proven viability across all ecological regions.  The project, the Council said, added over 150,000 MT of processing grade tomato to the national output yearly since 2017 and yield/ha improved to an average 40MT/ha amongst farmers who adhere to good agricultural practices. 

The Council also embarked on a seed saving scheme. At Riyom, a tomato-based village, a ‘community seed saving scheme’ was initiated to increase farmers’ access to high performing tomato seeds in 2017.  The Plateau State Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, provided a 10-hectare piece of arable land for the Council at the ministry’s Agro-services Centre, Riyom, for a tomato village.

In collaboration with some investors and an equipment fabricator based in Kaduna, the Council is currently promoting the establishment of (1-5 MT/day) processing plant.    

Tomato village 

Although there has been a surge in the number of tomato processing factories in Nigeria between 2016 and date, it would appear that national demand for tomato paste cannot be met soon due to the paucity of processing grade tomato fruits. 

This is more so that most of the recently established plants are of very large capacities that may require over a million metric tonnes of fresh fruits. 

Thus, the federal government, through the RMRDC, is working on the establishment of an all-inclusive tomato village with field production and a 10-tonne/ha small-scale concentrating plant. 

As a result, the Council said government had initiated collaboration with Agri-Foodcity in Ontario, Canada, on the establishment of a 10-tonne/day tomato paste plant. In furtherance to this, Agri-Foodcity, led by its president, Mr Bill Thomas of the Thomas Canning Inc of Canada has consented to seeking grant to finance the establishment of a tomato village on a 10-hectare location to be provided by the RMRDC and to provide training for selected farmers on agronomic best practices in tomato farming. 

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