Thursday, 8th December 2022
Breaking News:

‘How Nigeria can tap from $9.8b worth global tomato exports’

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
27 December 2021   |   2:36 am
Experts have advised that for Nigeria to tap from the yearly global exports of $9.8 billion worth of tomato and by-products, productivity of farmers per hectare, storage, and processing...

• RMRDC collaborates with Canadian firm on paste plant

Experts have advised that for Nigeria to tap from the yearly global exports of $9.8 billion worth of tomato and by-products, productivity of farmers per hectare, storage, and processing, among other factors, have to be boosted.

Nigeria is 14th highest producer of tomato in the world, but fourth in terms of areas harvested and hence, is not a dominant player in the global market for value added tomato products due to her abysmal 160th position in terms of yield.

The average yield under the farmers’ present condition is about 15 to 30 metric tonnes (MT) per hectare (ha), as against over 90MT/ha in other more advanced countries.

In 2020, Mexico, Netherlands and Spain were the leading exporters of tomatoes, with 2.61 billion tonnes; 1.95 billion tonnes and 1.070 billion tonnes respectively.

Other major exporters in 2020 were Morocco, 770 million tonnes; Canada, 460 million tonnes; France, 440 million tonnes; Belgium, 330 million tonnes; US, 310 million tonnes; Turkey, 310 million tonnes and China, 270 million tonnes.

Although tomato can be cultivated in all the agro-ecological zones of the country, national yearly production is only about 1.8 million MTs, even as national demand is estimated at 2.4 million MTs.

Also, due to lack of storage facilities, ailing processing industries and poorly developed marketing channels, up to 50 per cent of the tomato produced suffer post-harvest losses, thereby widening the gap between demand and supply.

For instance, 62,205.06 MTs of tomato paste, equivalent of 407,572.39MTs of fresh tomato valued at about N16 billion was imported in 2020.  The importation of triple concentrate tomato, the major raw material for the production of canned tomatoes, in 2020 alone, was about 653,715.12 tonnes, which amounted to N4.41 billion, while that of ketchup and other sauces was over N2.96 billion.  

HOWEVER, Director-General of the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Doko Ibrahim, said the tide could be turned in favour of the country if necessary actions would be taken.

The council commenced an assessment of the tomato industry across its value chains with a view to checkmating further decline, he disclosed.

The outcome of the assessment had recommended aggressive production of processing grade fruits through captive, contract and out-growers farming schemes across states with favorable climate for tomato production, increased research and development on improved seeds development, small-scale processing (to feed larger packers), improved agricultural practices and extension services as panaceas for identified challenges.

Following this, RMRDC initiated a programme directed at increasing production of industrial varieties of tomato at competitive cost among farmers and to promote backward integration among processors.

The programme also aimed at increasing the average yield of tomato and improving its quality attributes, reduce post-harvest losses through increased processing and reduced input cost; and to stimulate investments in commercial farming and processing facilities.

Through the programme, the council said it had been able to provide improved tomato seeds to vegetable farmers in more than 28 states since the 2015/16 cropping season. 

Benefiting states were Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Kano, Kaduna Oyo, Benue, Gombe, Katsina, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Ondo, Enugu, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun,Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Delta,Jigawa, and Sokoto, and cumulatively received more than three metric tonnes of improved open pollinated tomato seeds with proven viability across all ecological regions. 

The council boss said: “The project adds over 150,000 MTs of processing grade tomato to the national output yearly since 2017 and yield/ha improved to an average 40MT/ha among farmers who adhere to Good Agricultural Practices.”

On production and processing technologies, the council said it successfully achieved automated extraction and drying of seeds, in collaboration with Savannah Farms Ltd, Dadin Kowa, in Gombe State.

“In collaboration with some investors and an equipment fabricator based in Kaduna, the council is currently promoting the establishment of (1-5 MT/day) processing plant.

“It is expected that major players in the industry would continue to work with synergy, especially that the Council targets competitiveness in tomato value chain development through effective stakeholders’ collaboration. In this regard, research institutes such as NBTI, NABDA, NARICT, Zaria and NIHORT, Ibadan, would be encouraged to continue to work with the industries for equipment, products development and backward integration purposes to solidify the academia-industry nexus in the sub sector,” the council boss said. 

He also informed that to further strengthen tomatoes value chain development, the council was working towards the establishment of a functional processing village locally. 

He added that although, there had been a surge in the number of tomato processing factories in Nigeria between 2016 and date, it appeared that the national demand for tomato paste could not be met soon due to paucity of processing grade tomato fruits.
He disclosed that the council was also working in collaboration with Agri-Foodcity in Ontario, Canada, on the establishment of a 10-tonne/day tomato paste plant.

“In furtherance to this, Agri-Foodcity, led by its President, Mr Bill Thomas of the Thomas Canning Inc of Canada, has consented to seek grants to finance the establishment of a tomato village on a 10-hectare location to be provided by RMRDC and to provide training for selected farmers on agronomic best practices in tomato farming,” Prof. Ibrahim said.