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‘Increased investment in tomato value-chain to address scarcity’

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 Chief Eric Umeofia, the President of Erisco Foods Limited.

Chief Eric Umeofia, the President of Erisco Foods Limited.

With increased investment in the tomato value-chain and incentives to farmers of various commodities, supply challenges in the tomato industry may be a thing of the past, operators in the industry have stated.

According to the value-chain operators, continued heavy importation of tomato concentrate remains a downside for investors involved in tomato backward integration activities, while farmers are equally not encouraged considering the low income accrued to them from sale of the commodity.

Already, consumers are presently decrying the high cost of the crop thus forcing them to cut down the quantities they buy.

In a chat with The Guardian, Chief Executive Officer of Chief Executive Officer, Erisco Foods Limited, Eric Umeofia urged the Federal Government to sustain formulation and implementation of policies that would enhance production capacity of farmers and processors.

Umeofia explained that the present scarcity being experienced is as a reflection of investments in the tomato sector noting that stakeholders are working on developing new seedlings to improve yield despite the harsh weather condition.

“The allegation that processors are responsible for tomato scarcity is not true as the commodity cannot be hoarded. Tomato has a lifespan of seven days and must be utilised. No firm can process beyond its capacity. The heat wave experienced in the last few weeks equally affected the yield of the crops.

“There is an urgent need for State Governors to return back to industrial estates and farm extension workers as it will help your noble idea and agenda of change to be effective faster than expected especially in the area of agriculture and industrialization as some States take years to allocate lands and even to issue C-of-O when the land is purchased by an investor.

“Payments for possessing cost in some states are highly discouraging especially to the indigenous manufacturers. We are sure that no state in Nigeria has ever created any industrial estate for the
past 25 years. How then can we feed ourselves and industrialize Nigeria?

“It is good that processing has commenced across the tomato producing states but government is not encouraging enough people to farm as importation of such commodities remains still attractive”, he added.

Umeofia said that the company fast-tracked its backward integration programme by developing a technology that synchronize its existing machines to produce tomato paste directly from fresh tomatoes to tomato pastes and ketchups.

It could be recalled that Dangote Tomato Processing Factory in Kadawa, Kano State, recently suspended production due to the lack of raw materials.

According to the firm, the company found it necessary to suspend production because there were no fresh tomatoes to process.

Managing Director, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kaita added that most of the tomato farms in Kano, Jigawa, Plateau, Katsina and Kaduna states were affected by a pest popularly known as “Tuta Absoluta” which killed all the tomato species there.

Kaita noted that the pest had destroyed tomato farms in the affected states, making the price of the perishable commodity to go up.

The tomato processing factory boss, however, said production would commence during the next irrigation season, emphasising that the company had the capacity to process 120 tonnes of fresh tomatoes per day at full capacity.



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