Government lauds Erisco’s investment in tomato production
Mulls plans to commercialise research findings
The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology has commended Erisco Foods Limited’s investment in tomato paste production, noting that this move by the company is also coming on the heels of the present administration’s effort is reduce poverty, create job opportunities and diversify the nation’s economy away from oil.
The Minister, Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said the federal government is making concrete steps to support local production, maintaining that Nigeria cannot continue to depend on importation to meet the nation’s food demands.
Onu during a facility tour at Erisco’s tomato processing plant and also to introduce its new technology in the processing of tomato paste, said: “With your investment, you have been able to create jobs and also helping the economy. This administration has promised Nigerians that we will work to reduce poverty, create jobs and grow our economy. It may take time, but I believe in the end, local investments will be highly supported.”
He however stated that plans are under way to commercialize the nation’s research findings, pointing out that ideas become more relevant to the people when converted to products and services.
In his words: “We believe strongly that ideas become important and serve the people best when they are converted to products and services. If you leave them as ideas in laboratories or on the shelves of libraries, they do not do much, but when you convert ideas to products and services, that is when people will benefit.
“We are linking our research to the people by ensuring that the research we do meets the immediate the immediate and foreseeable need of our nation. All our research findings, we are working towards commercializing them.”
According to him, no country can be great without the ability to feed its citizen, stressing that Nigeria is determined to feed its people going forward, urging local producers to invest in areas where the country has competitive and comparative advantage.
“What is happening in this factory today is critical to the journey we are making. There is no way we can have food security if we cannot produce locally. Tomato is very important and we have the opportunity to grow this commodity two times in a year, which is a major advantage we have over many other countries. By encouraging our farmers, we will be in a good position to produce enough tomatoes for the use in the country and also for export,” he said.
“We are glad about the investment that has been made in this tomato processing factory. I want to assure you that the President is very committed to ensuring that our economy recovers to a level where we can create jobs for our people and rebuild our image as a great nation”, he added.
What is happening in this factory is not only critical to achieving a food security, but also to diversify the nation’s economy to be strong and resilient to withstand any shock that may arise in the world market,” he said.
He also added that Nigeria has not achieved rapid growth and development due to lack of adequate attention and support to science and technology sector, but stressed that his administration is working tirelessly to ensure the nation embraces the sector to achieve greatness.
“No nation has become great without science and technology. Nigeria is designed and destined to be a great nation but what is missing is that we have not embraced sufficiently science and technology. We are working tirelessly to make sure that the country embraces science and technology to realize the greatness,” he added.
Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer, Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia, said economic growth is hampered due to substandard tomato paste products being imported and dumped in the country through the activities of some nefarious foreigners and their unpatriotic Nigerian collaborators.
He said despite the ability to grow the commodity twice in the year, Nigeria is the biggest importers of tomato paste in the world while over 75 per cent of fresh tomatoes harvested are wasted due low conversion for industrial use.
He said the company’s new technology would help address the challenge of wastage, saying that the technology will help in converting fresh tomatoes into paste.“We are in a position to meet the entire tomato needs of the country by December, 2016 and even begin to export in 2017 with adequate government’s support. Nigeria is blessed with two tomato planting seasons unlike other countries like China that has only one planting season,” he said.
He said the company is running the factory with foreign exchange sourced from the black market to buy machine and machine spare parts, raw materials for expansion, while the Central Bank of Nigeria kept approving loans and forex to foreign and Nigerian importers that import some of the 41 forex prohibited that can be locally produced.
He said until indigenous manufacturers are respected and supported, no meaningful economic diversification will be achieved in the country, adding that continuous cries and pains of loss of money by the genuine indigenous manufacturers will continue to send bad signal to the world on how manufacturers are being punished for contributing to the growth of our economy.