During my Higher School certificate days at Federal Government College, Kano, it was the in thing for the teachers to cultivate tomatoes, onions and pepper in their compounds in the staff quarters. Students went on excursion to the mighty Tiga dam that supplied water for the irrigation of several hectares of farm lands. When the tomatoes are mature and green, if you look far afield, you would see a Green carpet and when tomatoes are red and ripe, the entire field appeared like a red carpet. Kano state is synonymous with tomato production.
But alas the story had changed over the years. Nigeria’s penchant for importing almost everything it can locally produce was again brought to the fore when Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Malam Sanusi Lamido disclosed that about N16 billion, the amount allocated in the 2014 budget for the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail project, is being spent annually on the importation of tomato paste into the country.
The CBN governor made this known at the inauguration of the National Tomato Technical Working Group (NTTWG) on Saturday in Kano. He said there was a huge deficit in the supply of tomato required in the country, leading to a huge annual import bill on tomato paste to the tune of about N16 billion.
According to the CBN governor, the development was due to high demand for tomato in the country, which unfortunately, the farmers could not meet as a result of poor storage methods.
“The demand for tomato is currently estimated at 2.3 million metric tons per annum, while the output is 1.8 million metric tons because due to lack of good storage facilities and poor developed marketing channels, up to 50 per cent of the tomato produced is lost”, he said.
The working group was established to sensitize value chain actors in tomato industry, with a view to developing and boosting the production, processing, marketing and consumption of the commodity.
He said, “It is expected that the NTTWG will provide a platform for building sustainable partnerships between relevant ministries, department and agencies of governments and other stakeholders in the tomato industry, with a view to facilitating the development of domestic tomato industry”.
Sanusi noted that the tomato industry has great potential in contributing to the economy of the country, which he said is the second largest producer of tomato in Africa.The CBN governor, therefore, urged the NTTWG to come up with a recommendation that would result in the emergence of a more competitive and sustainable tomato industry in the country.
In the long run, when the processing plants become operational, Nigeria may serve the ECOWAS sub region and in fact the entire African continent with processed tomato derivatives – paste, plum, can, juice etc