FG mulls standards for tomato value chain three years after import policy
The Federal Government, in line with its economic diversification policy, has developed draft codes of practices for the tomato value chain from planting, harvesting, processing and transportation to Storage.
The Federal Government had in 2017, unveiled a new policy to encourage local production and processing by increasing the tariff on importation of tomato concentrate to 50 per cent alongside an additional levy of $1,500 per metric tonne from May 7.
Under the new policy, the federal government classified greenhouse equipment as agricultural equipment in order to attract zero per cent import duty; stopped the importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate put up for retail sale; stopped the importation of tomatoes preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid; restricted the importation of tomato concentrate to the seaports to address the abuse of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS); and included tomato production and processing in the list of industries eligible for investment incentives administered by the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
Addressing members of the Technical Committee for Fruits and Vegetable Products in Abuja recently, the Director-General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Osita Aboloma, described the meeting of the Committee to deliberate on the tomato value chain as a milestone in the country’s agricultural transformation and economic diversification agenda.
According to him, Nigeria as the second largest producer of tomato worldwide, is yet to attain its full potentials in spite of previous efforts by stakeholders.
Represented by the Chief of Staff to Director General, Richard Agu, Aboloma described the technical committee meeting as being to develop a practical road map to mitigate identified challenges of poor practices, thereby unlocking the huge economic benefits to Nigeria and the African continent at large through exports.
He expressed confidence in the Committee’s capacity to produce implementable codes of practices for tomato from planting to storage, export and consumption, given the level of technical knowledge and experience that abound in the membership.
The SON Chief Executive disclosed that collated comments obtained from the relevant stakeholders during the national enquiry stage of the Standards development process would be available for the Committee’ discussion.
He acknowledged the support of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and described the organisation as “having been very enthusiastic about this project and highly supportive to the realization of today’s meeting”.
Aboloma expressed delight about plans by the Committee to further simplify the draft codes, using pictorials and translation into the major Nigerian languages for easy comprehension by all stakeholders, irrespective of the levels of education.
He then challenged the Committee to immediately set up an agenda for the quick realization of the task. Commenting on the Committee’s task, the Chairperson, Dr. Abiola Oke of National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan described the Nigerian Codes of practice for tomato as the national guides for farmers and processors to meet the requirements of the relevant Nigerian Industrial Standards in providing quality raw materials to local processing plants.
According to her, “The aim of the codes is to help farmers produce safe, fresh tomato as raw materials for the local industries thereby reducing the importation of processed tomato products which is a burden on Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings”
She stated that the codes will facilitate safe production of tomato for consumption through prioritized use of bio-pesticides as well as other human and environmentally safe operational measures.
Dr. Oke enumerated the Technical Committee’s resolution to create a viable tomato product value chain, clearly stating conditions required at each stage within the convenient trade reality of Nigeria.
She disclosed that the Codes of Practices for Planting, Harvesting, Processing, Transportation and Storage are newly developed while the Standard for Tomato fruit was revised.
The final drafts according her have been submitted to the SON Management for consideration and approval by the Nigerian Standards Council.