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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

CBN, BoI to assist in production of high yield tomato

by Vincent A. Yusuf
Recently, stakeholders in the tomato industry converged at the Lagos hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotels Abuja, to chart the way forward in harnessing the country huge tomato resources to create a sustainable atmosphere of development in the area of vegetable production so as to make the nation one of the leading exporters of tomato in the world along with China, Italy, Israel and the United States.
The one-day workshop on Tomato Value Chain Development in Nigeria is organized by the Central Bank of Nigeria, with the theme: “Partnering to Build a Competitive Tomato Industry in Nigeria.”
Participants were drawn from private and public sectors of the economy. Present at the workshop were the Minister for Water Resources, Director-general of the Bank of Industry, Commissioners of Agriculture of Nasarawa, Kano, Kebbi, Gombe and representatives of other participating states. The Minister Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina whose presence would have boasted the moral of participants, was absent.
Other participants from the private sector included Dangote Farms Limited, Savannah Integrated Limited and Vegefresh Company Limited. Many investors with key interest in the tomato industry were also present.
The Central Bank said the objectives of the workshop are 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 Governor of Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi represented by the Deputy Governor Economic Policy Mrs. Sarah O. Alade explained to the stakeholders that “Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and 2nd only to Egypt in Africa at 1.51 million metric tons valued at N87.0 billion (USD556.1million) with a cultivated area of 264,430 ha.” Yet the nation imports 65,809 tons of processed tomato worth N11.7 billion annually. This he said is as a result of dysfunctional agricultural value chain system culminating to about 50 per cent of our local produced being lost.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said the Central Bank of Nigeria had 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.
Professor E. B. Amans of the Institute for Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in his submission noted that Nigeria occupies 16th position in the world, 2nd in Africa and the 1st in West Africa in terms of tomato output, adding, “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 tons from cultivated areas of 264, 100 hectares, Egypt cultivated about the same land areas (216 400ha) to produce 8, 547,200 metric tons 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 tons per hectare compared with 39.5 tons per hectare for Egypt.”
According to Vegefresh Company Limited, tomato is the most prominent vegetable/fruits in the world with no known ethnic or religious consumption barrier. It is consumed across all ages, religion and social classes. The company said Nigeria produces about 2.1 million metric tons in 2012 compared to 1.701 million tons produced in 2008.
This is about 24 percent increase in output. More than 50 percent are lost to post-harvest spoilage annually. Nigeria imports an average of about 77.767 million Dollars worth of tomato every year, making the country one of the highest importer of the product in the world.
Amans noted  that the problems of tomato production in the country  include high cost of production during the irrigation period, 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 because 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.
Alhaji Abdu A. Ringim, Managing Director/CEO Savannah Integrated Farms Limited noted that, “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.
Alhaji Ringim applauded the effort of Central Bank of Nigeria for creating the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) within its Development Finance Department, to give incentives to out-growers and share agricultural risk amongst the participating stakeholders.
In his remarks, Alhaji Abdulkarim Lawal Kaita, General Manager, Dangote Group said the group intention was to partner with tomato growers in Kano project area and to see how the company will empower and encourage those who have abandoned the farming of tomatoes due to perennial losses. And also to see how the group can create self-sufficiency in tomato paste production in Nigeria so as to reduce the importation of paste into the country.
In her presentation, the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe said Nigeria is 13th largest producer of tomato in the world yet the nation is one the highest importer of tomato in the world. Sarah said her ministry is working closely with relevance agencies to provide water for irrigation farmers for vegetable production in most part of the north.
The Director Bank of Industry, Ms Eveln N. Oputu said the bank of industry got involved in the tomato production from the seed level, adding, “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  Bank of Industry is going to be involved along with the Central Bank of Nigeria at every level of the value chain from seed production, open cast rural production of tomato, to green house and to processing.”

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