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"Nigeria is still far from being tomato-import independent"

In 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) announced a new National Tomato Policy. FEC also increased the import duty from 5 to 50 percent, which was meant to encourage processors to source their fresh tomatoes locally. In addition, the government also imposed a levy of $1,500 per metric ton imported. The idea was not to place an outright ban because of its signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, the industry faces challenges with distribution, storage, and disease.

The federal government and the CBN insisted that the country would soon achieve self-sufficiency in tomato production and even earn foreign exchange. “If we continue this program in a very tenacious manner, I am sure that in two years, Nigeria will not only be self-sufficient in producing these tomatoes, we will also begin to export tomatoes,” the current Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said.

However, as of today, tomato processing factories do not have an adequate and continuous supply of tomatoes to remain in production, continually forcing many processors to exit the market. In Kano, Malam Uba Wada Kura, a tomato farmer, said despite interventions by some international and local agro-development partners like GEMS4 over the years, the agronomic constraints like the incidence of pest and diseases, physiological disorders, poor postharvest technologies, poorly organized rural and urban market infrastructures still persist.

He explained that unpredictable price fluctuation also adversely affects the production and marketing of quality tomatoes. “It has become a tradition that tomato farmers in Kano State annually record tomato glut which usually results in a serious loss to the farmers and this is something that can be addressed through prudently managed and periodic monitoring as well as the provision of modern storage facilities in virtually all tomato markets,” he said.

According to the Managing Director of the Dangote tomato processing plant, Malam Abdulkareem Kaita, the issue affecting tomato production in Nigeria has been that of poor enforcement of the federal government ban on the importation of tomato paste. He explained that it is sad that after the company’s efforts at ensuring the enactment of the law banning the importation of tomato paste through the vice president’s office, enforcers of the ban have relented in doing their jobs.

“It is very sad to see that our markets are flooded with imported tomato paste, and we have found out that even the dedicated levy account on tomato importation is still at zero levels, and yet the paste is everywhere in our markets. Indeed, it has not been easy for us, but we have begun plans to go into producing tomatoes as well as packaging for domestic consumption, and by doing that, we hope to address the aggressive competition in the market,” he said.

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