Mr Bola Oyeleke, the Managing Director, Tomatoes and Orchard Processors Association of Nigeria (TOPAN) on Monday said repositioning tomato value chain in Nigeria remained a mirage due to lack of implementation of tomato policy guideline.
Oyeleke told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview in Abuja that since 2017 when the policy guideline was approved, nothing substantial had been done to implement it to tackle challenges facing tomato production.
He decried that in spite of having one of best tomatoes in the world, Nigeria was still grappling with problem of post harvest losses, poor yield and lack of technology among other things to drive the subsector.
“It is an irony that a country so blessed with the commodity is spending humongous amount of money annually in importing tomato concentrate.’’
Oyeleke said that this had been reported to be dangerous to health.
He said that with the high level of tomato consumption in Nigeria and the huge amount of money that could be generated from it, it was only right for government to implement the policy.
“Agriculture is business. There are several value chains in tomato production. It can be used for juice, ketchup, paste and it can be consumed raw.
“So, the potential in tomato production in Nigeria is enormous because Nigerians consume tomatoes on a daily basis and besides the numerous health benefits, tomatoes is a money spinner.
“Nigeria was once number 16 on the list of countries that produce tomato but due to lack of credit, capacity building and mitigating factors, we are where we are now.
“This age that we have fantastic seeds that can do well both during rainy and dry seasons, we should be able to extend the cultivation of tomato for commercial purposes beyond the North for higher yield.
“We need to expand our scope to other parts of the country to begin to think of other value chains, particularly processing.
“I was in Edo sometime ago and to my greatest shock, I heard that some of the raw tomatoes used there were imported from Cameroon,” he said.
He commended Federal Government’s effort to stop importation of the commodity and ensure that stakeholders in tomato value chain gained from interventions such as the Anchor Borrowers Scheme.
Oyeleke said however that more needed to be done to grow the subsector.
“There is also the need to have data of all tomato farmers through cooperatives. Not the old system of cooperative that we were practicing.
“We have to learn about the credit system that makes borrowing and repayment easy.
“There is a future for tomato production in Nigeria but we need to put in more efforts to get there as a country.
“We are losing a lot more than we are gaining in spite producing one of the best tomatoes in the world.
“We need to fix our infrastructure, particularly our transport system to comfortably move tomatoes farm to market and from markets in the North to other parts of the country.”
The director said that unless the policy was implemented, even efforts by individuals in the private sector such as Mr Aliko Dangote to grow the subsector would not yield much result.
Oyeleke assured that on its part, the association would continue to do its best to train youths to embrace agriculture particularly tomato production.
The Federal Government in 2017, approved a tomato policy guideline to foster the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIPR) and the administration’s bid to diversify the economy.
The policy is meant to among other things cut down on post harvest losses, curb the import of tomato concentrate through increased import tariff from five per cent to 50 per cent and an additional 1,500 dollar levy per metric tonne.
The policy is further expected to create opportunities for farmers, processors, and fabricators of small scale equipment and improve capacity for export to Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region and beyond.
Since its approval, the policy is yet to be implemented, while tomato concentrate is still being imported into the country in spite of its health concerns.