Kaita debunks closure of Dangote tomato factory
Typical of the sad tales of under-utilised capacity of the Nigeria’s indigenous industries, Dangote Tomato Processing Company in Kadawa, Kano State is having its fair share of the bad weather.
The company, one of the country’s biggest tomato plants is experiencing some challenges, but the management has denied it has not shut down and has not been idle for six months, as reported by an online media, last week.Launched in March 2016 with a production capacity of 1,200 metric tons of tomato paste per day, it was set up to stop the country’s total reliance on importation of the commodity.
The country is adjudged the third largest importer of the commodity in Africa, importing about 1.3 million tons of tomato paste, mostly from China and other parts of Asia yearly.The factory was shut down in late 2017 due to lack of raw materials and price dispute between the company and farmers.
It was re-opened March this year and has since taken moves to solve issues that forced its earlier shutdown, one of which was to develop own farm within the plant district with special tomato train and to assist farmers with seedlings, to improve supply of raw material.
According to the online report, it claimed that the factory had already closed, as it was unable to get its required feedstock, as farmers had switched to other crops at the beginning of the rainy season in May.
The report claimed the company is losing at least N30m monthly with employees idle in the last six months.But the Managing Director of Dangote Farms, Abdulkareem Kaita told The Guardian last week that the report was far from the truth.
“All over the world, tomato production is known to be seasonal. I want to use this opportunity to debunk the story, which claimed the company had been closed. The company is not closed because it is known all over the world that tomato is a seasonal commodity.
“Farmers didn’t dump tomato cultivation and neither was the Dangote factory being closed down again. Tomato is a seasonal crop, and all are now gearing up for massive tomato production this season. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is funding 10,000 tomato farmers to cultivate 10,000 hectares of tomato solely for off-take by Dangote tomato factory.
“Similarly, the Dangote factory has set up a high tech greenhouse to grow 150 million seedlings of hybrid tomatoes, which can give farmers up 70 metric tons per hectare, as against the 10 metric tons per hectare. This will ensure that in the coming tomato season, a minimum of 400,000 metric tons of tomato from only Dangote outgrowers is produced. This will definitely have a huge impact on the national self-sufficiency, in both fresh tomato and tomato paste,” he said.
Kaita confirmed that the factory is not getting enough supply from farmers, reason why it introduced hybrid varieties, to give them much higher yield to meet their requirements and that of the fresh tomato market.“We are not losing money as such, but creating wealth and capacity building to our workforce. Patronage for our finished product is low due to massive importation of substandard tomato paste and concentrate.
“Our major challenge is to get the government to put a total ban on tomato in whatever form, like it did for rice. This will encourage more farmers to grow tomato as they will get better prices and more investors will invest in the tomato value chain.