The Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria (TGAN) has decried the non-implementation of the Federal Government tomato development policy guidelines by the relevant government agencies causing the country to incur a loss of N10 billion. Across the country in 2018 alone. According to the Secretary General of the TGAN Malam Sani Danladi -Yadakwari, the situation has imposed severe handicaps on both growers and processors with the immediate consequences that include the closure of two major factories namely Dangote Tomato Processing Company Limited and Savanah Integrated Farm Limited. This has led to the dependence of the country on imported tomato which is often smuggled into the country under suspect circumstances from China and other countries even without the payment of duty, not to talk of the implications of health hazards as the item is a food commodity.
Yadakwari pointedly accused officials of the Nigerian Customs Service and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) of conniving with sundry unscrupulous business persons to frustrate the goals of the policy by compromising its implementation. He even alleged that some of the officials of the two agencies have been preventing the prosecution of importers of unhealthy tomato paste as revealed by the Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN) Directorate of NAFDAC. Against the backdrop of the foregoing, we demand for the immediate implementation of the policy guidelines by all concerned government agencies in order to reverse the declining fortunes of the crop in the Nigerian market as well as boost the interests of the stakeholders. We also recommend the investigation of the NAFDAC whose officials were fingered in shady deals with respect to compromising the tomato industry in the country. Of interest is the query by TGAN in respect of doubts over NAFDAC’s claim that imported tomato paste is only 28% of the stock in the Nigerian market.
Against the backdrop of the position of President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the development in the country’s tomato industry remains unsavoury to say the least. Agriculture has been the mainstay of the Nigeria economy producing over 90% of the annual gross domestic product and employs over 60% of the working population. However, its operation are still trapped in antiquated production methods at are mostly with artisanal and generate subsistence grade productivity. Industrialisation of the agricultural sector has consistently appealed to succeeding administrations who had also vowed endlessly to do the needful in respect of industrialising the country through transforming its operations.
Meanwhile tomato processing has remained as one of the most feasible areas that are amenable to modernisation with commendable dependence on local inputs, given the strategic advantages the country possesses in terms of producing top quality fruits. Already, building on this premise some well-disposed entrepreneurs like Dangote Tomato Processing Limited and Savanah Integrated Farms Limited have ventured in there and are now crippled by the absence of tomato fruits to run their operations, courtesy of unscrupulous government officials.
Finally, we join the TGAN to call on the government to take a serious view on the complaints of the tomato growers and bring to book whoever is implicated in any aspect of the nefarious activities in the trade, as such persons are engaging in economic sabotage of the country. We also call on the Federal Ministry of Agriculture pay more than a passing attention over the failure of the country’s tomato development policy. The ministry seems to be playing the role of a casual by stander in the face of a situation that would commit the country to a staggering loss of over N10 billion in just one year.