By STEVE AGBOTA
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed that Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and 2nd only to Egypt in Africa at 1.51 million metric tonnes valued at N87 billion ($556.1 million) with a cultivated area of 264,430 ha.
This was revealed at a one-day workshop on Tomato Value Chain Development in Nigeria organised by the CBN, with the theme, “Partnering to Build a Competitive Tomato Industry in Nigeria,” in partnership with Bank of Industry (BoI) to assist in production of high yield tomato in Nigeria. The apex bank said the nation still imports 65,809 tonnes of processed tomato worth N11.7 billion annually.
According to CBN, this was as a result of dysfunctional agricultural value chain system culminating to about 50 per cent of the nation’s local produce being lost during harvest.
It explained that the objectives of the workshop were to build a sustainable partnership between government and stakeholders in the tomato industry; proffer solutions to identified challenges in the tomato value chain and promote global competitiveness of the Nigerian tomato industry.
In his address, the CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Mrs. Sarah O. Alade, explained that the governor has spent N200 billion on commercial agricultural credit scheme and Nigeria incentive-based risk sharing system for agricultural lending, which will support the Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
Meanwhile, the Director, BoI, Ms. Evelyn N. Oputu, said the bank got involved in tomato production from the seed level in the country.
She added: “We got involved at that level because we want to be able to increase the yield. Many of our rural dwellers were producing at the level we are no longer comfortable with. The BoI is going to be involved along with the CBN at every level of the value chain from seed production, open cast rural production of tomato, to green house and to processing.”
Also speaking, Prof. E. B. Amans of the Institute for Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in his submission observed that Nigeria occupies 16th position in the world, 2nd in Africa and the 1st in West Africa in terms of tomato output.
He noted that, “despite these, the country’s tomato yield is disappointingly below what it could potentially achieve. For example, in 2011, while Nigeria produced 1,861,900 metric tonnes from cultivated areas of 264,100 hectares, Egypt cultivated about the same land areas (216,400ha) to produce 8,547,200 metric tonnes, which is 4.6 times the Nigeria’s output. This is simply because the estimated annual average yield per hectare of tomato in Nigeria was very low at 7.1 tonnes per hectare compared with 39.5 tonnes per hectare for Egypt.”
Amans noted that the problems of tomato production in the country include high cost of production during the irrigation period and post-harvest losses due to lack of storage facilities.
He said farmers consider farming tomato as a “curse” because they are forced to sell to the marketers at very low prices since they cannot keep the product for long. The marketers are the ones who now sell it at higher prices, thus making huge profit at the expense of the farmers.
According to Vegefresh Company Limited, tomato is the most prominent vegetable/fruits in the world with no known ethnic or religious consumption barrier.
The company said tomato is consumed across all ages, religion and social classes, saying that Nigeria produced about 2.1 million metric tonnes in 2012 compared to 1.701 million tonnes produced in 2008.
“This is about 24 per cent increase in output. More than 50 per cent are lost to post-harvest spoilage annually. Nigeria imports an average of about $77.767 million worth of tomato every year, making the country one of the highest importers of the product in the world.”
Alhaji Abdu A. Ringim, Managing Director/CEO Savannah Integrated Farms Limited said: “The quality of tomato depends on its brix and colour. To achieve both and enhance yields, tomato must be produced under cultured method, starting from seed selection, water distribution, fertilizer type and quantity, spray method and period, mature, phased harvest and after harvest handling.
“The standard in Savannah and indeed internationally are 28 percent brix for canning and between 34-36 percent brix for drumming. Most imported paste into Nigeria however, are 26 percent canning, hence when you shake the can, it sounds watery. The standard colour is between 20-24. Most imported paste contain food colour additive named Deerazine, to date NAFDAC does not effectively monitor food and cosmetics into the country,” he said.