…as RMRDC gives conditions for tomato policy success
Lack of storage facilities, ailing processing industries and poorly developed marketing channels are responsible for the loss of about 50 percent tomatoes produced in Nigeria, a research document obtained from the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) has shown.
The document also shows that even though, tomato can be cultivated in all the ecological zones of the country, national annual production is only about 1.8 million metric tonnes, even as national demand is estimated at 2.4 million tonnes.
According to the document, the average yield under the farmers condition is about 15-30 MT/ha as against over 90MT/ha in other more developed climes for most varieties.
The gap in the demand and supply of the produce locally has led to the massive importation of tomato concentrate, which is further crippling local production.
The document for instance shows that 56,104.07 MT of tomato paste, equivalent of 308,572.39MT of fresh tomato valued at about 12b was imported into the country in 2014 alone.
According to the document, a recent analysis of the import of tomatoes and tomato products from 2010 to 2015 carried out by the Council using data obtained from the Nigerian customs Service (NCS) database revealed that between 2010 and 2015, Nigeria spent N141.08 billion to import tomato and tomato products.
Of this amount, tomato paste ready to use (finished or canned tomato paste) accounted for 70.1% of total imports amounting to N98.93 billion. This was followed by tomato pastes or concentrates that are not retail (I.e. not ready for use or semi-finished product) amounting to N31.98 billion (22.7%). In essence, the finished and semi-finished tomato products accounted for 92.8% (N130billion) of imports within the period reviewed.
The importation of triple concentrate tomato which is the major raw material for the production of tin or can tomatoes in 2015 alone was about 553,715.12 tonnes which amounted to N4.41 billion while that of ketchup and other sauces between 2010 and 2014 was over N2.96 billion (or USD 14.82 million) for 8,333 tonnes.
The minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, recently said the present administration was not comfortable with the happenings in the tomato subsector, adding that the government’s goal is to encourage local production for self-sufficient.
This prompted the current administration to develop the tomato policy to drive its economic growth recovery plan, which amongst others considering a ban on importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate put up for retail sale and others (HS Code 2002.90.20.00), tomatoes prepared or preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid and others (HS Codes 2002.10.00; 2002.90.19.00; 2002.90.90.00) and the inclusion of Tomato Ketchup and other sauces (HS Code 2103.20.00.00) in the ban regime.
The policy will spark-off renewed interest and investments in local processing of tomatoes championed by local Erisco Foods Ltd. Dangote Industries and other entrepreneurs.
What must be done to ensure FG’s policy on tomato works
RMRDC’s Director-General, Dr. Ibrahim Hussaini Doko, is of the belief that the federal government policy on tomato may suffer a set back if corresponding structures are not put in place as safeguards. For instance, he said, internal industrial capacity is low due to scarcity of processing grade tomato fruits, high post-harvest losses, poor yield per hectare, coupled with high production cost and competition from cheap imports from abroad, which makes domestic processing non-competitive.
An assessment done by the RMRDC as captured in the document recommended aggressive production of processing grade fruits through captive, contract and out growers farming schemes across states with favorable ecologies for tomato production, increased research and development on improved seeds development, small scale processing, improved agricultural practices and extension services as panaceas to ameliorating the identified challenges.
Following this, the Council initiated a programme directed at promoting the development of the industry. The objectives of the programme were to increase tomato production at competitive cost among farmers and also promote backward integration amongst processors.
It particularly aimed at increasing the average yield of tomato and improving its quality attributes, reduce post-harvest losses through increased processing and reduced input cost; and to stimulate investments in tomato production (commercial farming) and processing facilities. Through the programme which came into existence in 2015, the Council has been able to provide improved tomato seeds to vegetable farmers in eleven states of the federation.
In 2015/16, vegetable farmers in Niger, Kano and Kaduna states obtained 17kg, 35kg and 30kg of improved tomato seeds, respectively. In the 2017/18 growing season, Oyo, Benue, Gombe, Katsina and Kebbi states, cumulatively, were provided with 100kg of improved variety of tomato seeds. This project, according to the document, has added over 150,000 MT of processing grade to the national output yearly since 2017 and yield/ha improved beyond 50kg.
More recently, as part of efforts at developing the tomato value chain, the Council embarked on sensitisation programme to improve the quality attributes of tomato fruits by demonstrating to farmers agronomic best practices in the production and handling of top grade fresh tomato fruits. Also, the Council has successfully produced an advisory brief on the development of tomato value chain in Nigeria.
The Director-General of the Council said the main thrust of the brief was to help re-shape the thinking of actors in tomato sub sector by facilitating access to evidence based current information .This is with a view to developing a template for decision making that will enhance global competitiveness in the tomato industry.
The Council also embarked on a seeds saving scheme. The Riyom, tomato village based ‘community seed saving scheme’ was initiated to increase farmers’ access to high performing tomato seeds. The Plateau State Government, through the Ministry of agriculture, provided a 10 hectare (ha) piece of arable land for the Council at the Ministry of Agriculture Agro-Services Centre, Riyom, for a tomato village. Adjacent to the land is a stream that provided water for irrigation purposes during the dry season. A storage facility, built by the state government is also located near the farmland. With these facilities, the Council has been able to step up its activities on the tomato productivity improvement initiative. A unique feature of the project was that harvest of fruits from the pilot farm was undertaken during the month of April- (a period considered to be off season for tomato cultivation by natives who participated in the project).
The Council plans to undertake the automated extraction and drying of the seeds in the next exercise. This would be in collaboration with Savannah Farms located in Dadin-Kowa, Gombe state, in association with regulatory agencies, so as to increase frontiers over the pilot. Furthermore, the Council, in collaboration with some investors and an equipment fabricator at the Kaduna Polytechnic,are promoting the establishment of (1-5 MT/day) processing plants in major tomato processing areas of the country. It is expected that major players in the industry would embrace this strategy.
The Council’s programme of promoting competitiveness in raw materials and products locally has highlighted further strategies for improving performance of this sector. Research institutes such as NARICT, Zaria, NIHORT, NBTI and NABDA, have been mapped along with the tomato processing industries in Nigeria and collaboration between the research institutes and the industries will commence in earnest.