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Tomato industry in limbo as FG, CBN interventions fail

In 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) announced a new National Tomato Policy. FEC also increased the import duty from 5 to 50 per cent,…

In 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) announced a new National Tomato Policy. FEC also increased the import duty from 5 to 50 per cent, which was meant to encourage processors to source their fresh tomatoes locally. In addition, government also imposed a levy of $1,500 per metric tonne imported.  The idea was not to place outright ban because of its signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, the industry faces challenges with distribution, storage and disease.

Since 2012, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and many private sectors have held several summits on tomato, but these initiatives have not produced any significant result.

In 2013, the Central Bank of Nigeria under Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, organized a tomato summit to address production challenges and value chain constraints. Between 2012 and 2016, the country was importing tomato worth $170 million annually.

In 2017, FEC, in an attempt to increase domestic production and to encourage processors to source their fresh tomatoes locally, increased import duty from 5 to 50 per cent. Government also imposed a levy of $1,500 per metric tonne imported.

The then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while explaining the federal government’s resolve to ban the importation of tomato products into the country by 2021, said: “Federal government will continue to encourage Dangote agro-farms and the farmers to grow massive tomatoes in Nigeria.”

The current Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the apex bank’s involvement in the tomato industry cost about N10bn, covering eight projects, one of which is the Dangote Green House tomato project, which can produce 10 million tomato seedlings in a month for the 5,000 out-growers at Kadawa irrigation valley in Kano where the factory is located.

The federal government and the CBN insisted that the country would soon achieve self-sufficiency in tomato production and even earn foreign exchange.

“If we continue this programme in a very tenacious manner, I am sure that in two years, Nigeria will not only be self-sufficient in producing these tomatoes, we will also begin to export tomatoes,” Emefiele said.

According to Emefiele, CBN supported Dangote greenhouse to produce hybrid tomato seedlings for massive local cultivation. The greenhouse plant was expected to produce three million seedlings for the farmers, who will be able to produce over 70,000 tonnes per hectare against the current 10,000 tonnes with the hybrid tomato seedling.

Although few private investors like Tomato Jos in Kaduna, which launched its factory on Friday are making progress, majority of tomato farmers in the country lose a substantial share of their revenue as a result of swelling tomato wastages, diseases and shortage, as well as poor varieties which seriously affects processors.

As at today, tomato processing factories do not have adequate and continuous supply of tomatoes to remain in production, continually forcing many processors to exit the market.

In Gombe, the Manto Processing Company was established in the year 2000 by the administration of late Governor Abubakar Habu Hashidu to reduce wastages.

The factory located in Kumo town of Akko Local Government Area of the state, was commissioned by former President Olusegun Obasanjo amidst fanfare, considering the company’s potentials in boosting commercial activities and employment creation.

Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that since the ceremonial commissioning of the factory, it has remained under lock and key, as nothing was done in the area of tomato paste.

However, the current administration of Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya has recently made another move to resuscitate the moribund Manto Processing Company.

A team of consultants led by the state’s Deputy Governor Dr Manassah Jatau, had at the beginning of the administration, inspected the factory, alongside the Emir of Akko, Alhaji Umar Ahmad Atiku, with a view to revamping the company.

During the inspection visit, Dr Jatau said: “It is unfortunate the neglect of an economically viable project like Manto Processing Company, in spite of its potential of putting smiles on the faces of the people, especially tomatoes farmers who had been suffering from poor marketing and lack of storage facilities.”

In Kano, Malam Uba Wada Kura, a tomato farmer, said despite interventions by some international and local agro-development partners like GEMS4 over the years, the agronomic constraints like incidence of pest and diseases, physiological disorders, poor postharvest technologies, poorly organized rural and urban market infrastructures still persist.

He explained that unpredictable price fluctuation also adversely affects the production and marketing of quality tomatoes.

“It has become a tradition that tomato farmers in Kano State annually record tomato glut which usually results in a serious loss to the farmers and this is something that can be addressed through prudently managed and periodic monitoring as well as the provision of modern storage facilities in virtually all tomato markets,” he said.

Similarly, the state chairman of Tomato Out- Growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), Alhaji Sani Danladi Yadakwari, said that they need improved market infrastructure like transportation and effective storage and affordable processing facilities.

He further stated that the easiest way to effectively address the issue of tomato production in the country is through sustainable storage and processing to avert glut.

According to him, had the Dangote tomato processing factory in Kano been fully operational, the issue would have been resolved.

“You see, last year we produced more than enough tomatoes but due to some issues with the processing company, we have to revert to old ways of drying our tomatoes to save the situation. We were involved in the Anchor Brower Scheme, but believe me, the fact is that due to these issues our recovery level is very poor,” said Yadakwari.

In 2016, the price of tomato skyrocketed by 400 per cent within three months, as Tuta Absoluta destroyed the annual harvest farms across Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa and Plateau states.

According to Managing Director of Dangote tomato processing plant, Malam Abdulkareem Kaita, the issue affecting tomato production in Nigeria has been that of poor enforcement of the federal government ban on importation of tomato paste. He explained that it is sad that after the company’s efforts at ensuring the enactment of the law banning importation of tomato paste through the vice president’s office, enforcers of the ban have relented in doing their jobs.

“It is very sad to see that our markets are flooded with imported tomato paste, and we have found out that even the dedicated levy account on tomato importation is still at zero level and yet the paste is everywhere in our markets. Indeed, it has not been easy for us, but we have begun plans to go into producing tomatoes as well as packaging for domestic consumption and by doing that we hope to address the aggressive competition in the market,” he said.

By Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Haruna Gimba Yaya (Gombe) & Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano)

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