By: Joy Odor/Kaduna
Nigeria is ranked as the largest producer of tomato in Sub-Saharan Africa and the thirteenth in the World with an estimated annual total area of one million hectares reportedly dedicated for its cultivation.
This was disclosed by the Director-General of Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Dr. of the Council, Dr. Huassaini Ibrahim Doko at the presentation ceremony of improved Tomato Seeds that will cover over 100 hectares to Vegetable Farmers in Kaduna State, North-West, Nigeria held at the conference hall of Kaduna Agricultural Development Project Tuesday.
Represented by the Director Agriculture and Agro-Allied Department of RMRDC, Dr. Abimbola Ogunwusi, Dr. Doko also informed that it is also with an annual national domestic demand estimated at 2.4 million metric tons and only about 1.7 million metric tons is produced annually which leaves a deficit of about 700,000 metric tons due to the cultivation of existing low-yielding varieties and high post-harvest losses.
He mentioned that the deficit was bridged through imports of tomato paste and its other value added products, adding that even fresh tomatoes are imported from other countries with its attendant strain on economy.
The Director-General lamented that currently, about 16 billion naira is expended annually in foreign exchange on tomato imports, saying this is the reason the Council came up with the initiative to develop tomato across the value chain with a view to solving the challenges of raw materials deficit in the sub-sector.
“You may be aware that the current administration’s efforts on diversifying the economy hinges largely on industrialization through local raw materials processing, tomato has specially been targeted by the policy as import of non-triple concentrated tomato paste has been banned and tariff increased on some other processed tomato products to stimulate domestic processing”
“It is heart-warming to observe that this policy has stimulated the establishment of new and emerging processing plants as well as the resuscitation of some hitherto comatose tomato concentrating plants.
“However to operate these plants at optimal capacity and competitively as well as satisfy the demand for table use, an additional 5 million metric tons of quality processing grade tomato fruits would be required.
“Therefore, access to improved seeds must be guaranteed. In addition to adopting global best agronomic practices in producing and handling, travel distance or time spent between the farm gate and processing plants must be reduced to ensure competitiveness of domestic products.
“Through this efforts, the loss of good quality tomato would be minimized which the reason the Council came up with the initiative to develop tomato across the value chain with a view to solving the challenges of raw materials deficit in the sub-sector” he said.
“It is also instructive to inform you that apart from its project on tomato, RMRDC has been committed to the development of capacity of the industry sector of the economy since inception. the Council currently execute various development projects on more than ten other raw materials considered to be strategic to the economy of the nation. some of these agricultural raw materials are being develop at the various stages of their value chains include ginger, thaumatococcus daniellii, cotton, sesame seeds, sheanut, honey, livestock and tropical fruits”.
According to him, the improved seeds are open-pollinated, which can be saved by the farmers in subsequent planting seasons and are suitable for both rainy and dry season farming.
Dr. Doko however encourage members of the Vegetable Growers Association who will cultivate the seeds to multiply them for further planting during the forthcoming dry season and urged the farmers to imbibe the lessons to learn from the training program that will lead the symbolic presentation.
“I want to seize the opportunity to implored the State’s Agricultural Development Programme to monitor the progress of the project for its overall success in the State which will aggregate to more job opportunities and wealth creation for our teeming farmers, promote the competitiveness of domestic tomato processing industries and ultimately contribute to the growth of the national economy” Dr. Doko stressed.
Earlier, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Professor Kabiru Mato said the State Government is inclined to collaborate with people that bring value to the state as government cannot do it alone, saying the government believed that with the new tempo that is coming to agriculture we are going to revival a lot of valued chain not just only tomato.
Represented by the Director Agric Service, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Ms. Jummai Ambi the Commissioner was of the opinion that the Council should not stop at just production because that is why agriculture has suffered over the years but the valued addition approach has great return and can make farmers millionaires beyond their imagination.
Responding, the Chairman Kaduna State Tomato Growers Association, Alhaji Idris Dalhatu Takalafiya promised that the Association will imbibe on the rules and regulation on how to proceed with the improved seeds so that they will profit from it and thanked Council for the gesture .
He enjoined the members to be hard working to ensure they are among the farmers that will tomorrow be exporters of tomato, saying the opportunity given to them will definitely yielded positive result in contributing to the economic growth.