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Benue tomato farmers set for dry season farming

The Tomato Farmers Association of Nigeria (TOFAN) in Benue State is set to turn around the fortunes of its members in the state with arrangements concluded for them to engage in dry season farming.

TOFAN officials, arising from a meeting with the Dry Season Tomato Farming Facilitators, Vitalis Tarnongu and Engr Baka Msughter, both of Teryima Nigeria Limited in Makurdi, expressed confidence that they would boost production in the state.

State chairman of TOFAN, Theophilus Joji, told our correspondent in Makurdi that his members were set for the takeoff of the 2020 dry season tomato production in the state which targets to be the first of its kind.

“We are using this opportunity of partnership with Teryima company for a pilot scheme. We are sure that this phase 1 of the project will turn around tomato farming in the state. I can confidently say that good days are here again for tomato farmers in Benue,” he said.

Joji expressed optimism that the scheme would change the face of tomato farming because the hybrid seed already made available to them by Teryima Limited was different from the local seeds they used to plant in the past years.

He said the new hybrid seed variety would produce bigger specie of tomato with little water content and with ability to last longer than the old local variety known to them which barely survived harvesting before rotting away.

Moreover, he said the new variety would breed healthier and tastier tomato which will attract investors unlike the old variety produced in the state that could hardly be sold to consumers even within the environs.

The TOFAN president called on the state government to complete the Wannune Tomato processing factory in Tarka Local Government Area of the state which was started by the Senator George Akume administration in the state but abandoned by successive governments.

Joji said the completion of the factory would go a long way to curb tomato wastage, encourage tomato farming and add value to products through the stages of processing, as well as create jobs for the teeming unemployed people in the state.

In the same vein, the treasurer of the association in the state, Emmanuel Kugba, said tomato farmers are now equipped with the dry season seed variety to engage in commercial production.

He admitted that all necessary support had been made available to them by the company to commence large-scale production of the high yielding seed variety which end product would be bigger than the popular Jos specie of tomato.

Earlier, the Managing Director of Teryima Limited, Tarnongu, said the partnership with TOFAN plans to grow the dry season tomato on 31 hectares of farmland across three local government areas of Buruku, Ushongo and Makurdi.

He said the outgrower project targets to produce at least 100 metric tons of tomato on one hectare each of the 31 hectares total parcels of farmland.

“Teryima Limited decided to empower tomato farmers in Benue. This is the first time we are engaging in this particular project, though we have been doing it but in a local way.

“We have distributed the seed (BA Tool F1); a high yielding hybrid first folial generation. The seed is a Netherlands specie. We have tested it already in our Makurdi Demonstration farm and we are currently still harvesting in the field from where we started in December,” he added.

Tarnongu said the dry season variety which the farmers would commence planting this January would yield in 90-days and as such the harvest would be expected between April and May 2020.

Also speaking, the Chief Operating Officer of Teryima Farms, Engr. Msughter, explained that a total of 124 tomato farmers would plant in the 31 hectares of field, adding that four farmers would be apportioned one hectare of the land.

He said the idea involved giving the farmers the seeds as well as other required inputs and at the end of harvest, Teryima would buy back the produce.

“We are doing this as an intervention. We would grow the tomato organically and it would be for commercial purpose. We will also make available the rainy season seed variety when the period is due,” Msughter stated.

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