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Don tasks FG on enforcing tomato import ban

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A tomato farm


A Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Management, Prof. Goke Bodunde has called on the Federal Government to enforce the ban on various agricultural products, particularly tomato paste, as they contain up to 50 per cent starch, before diluted with additional 15 per cent starch after importation.

The don who said this while delivering his inaugural lecture titled: “Unveiling The Beauty Of An Unforbidden Fruit,” during the 59th Inaugural Lecturer of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNNAB), condemned the importation of substandard tomato paste and the consumption of rotten tomato fruits often called Esha in tomato markets, which he attributed to poor yield of tomato.

According to him, although tomato is considered vital, yet in human nutrition, Nigeria has the poorest yield performance in the world with about four to five tonnes per hectare, compared to Egypt that records a yield of 39.7 tons/ha and South Africa with 78.7 tons/ha.

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Prof. Bodunde ascribed the low productivity to environmental and managerial factors, noting that these factors conspire to make Nigeria a producer of just two per cent of the total world output of tomato, despite huge land area cultivated.

The inaugural lecturer stated that on account of low production and the dietary compulsion of tomato in culinary use, a number of abuses detrimental to human health in an attempt to make the product available have been observed.

“This is the story of some of the tomato paste and puree imported, 91.1 per cent of which according to National Agency For Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) (2015), failed to meet the required standard,” he said.  

According to him, “It is noteworthy that most of the paste are imported as concentrates in drums and big cans from Italy, India and China. They are usually diluted, packaged and finally canned by various canning industries in Nigeria.”

Speaking on the way forward, the Don recommended that the university, which is endowed with huge human and material potentials, can and should promote interest in research along the tomato value chain, through the Institute of Food Security, Environmental Resources and Agricultural Research (IFSERAR), as this can make a difference in tomato availability in the Southwest.

He also suggested that universities and research institutes should encourage researchers’ adoption of crop commodities for crop-based research to reap the benefit of comparative advantage of in-depth knowledge of individual crops toward improving research and adding value to research results.

The professor strongly advocated for investment in tomato canning industry by the private sector and government, as well as the promotion of research-industry linkage.Speaking at the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kolawole Salako stated that the lecture was the sixth he would be presiding-over as the Vice-Chancellor.

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