By: Hope Ikwe, in Jos.
The current high cost of tomatoes in Nigeria has been linked to an invasion of many farms last year by a disease that affects the crop, as well as ongoing maintenance of one of the dams in Kano State, Joshua Nwegwen, secretary general, National Tomatoes Growers of Nigeria (NATPAN) said.
“Usually, our market is flooded by tomatoes from Kano and Kaduna at this time. Tomatoes produced in Jos are mostly not sold here, they are taken to the south. People prefer tomatoes from Jos because tomatoes from Jos have longer shelf life and are mostly sold in big supermarkets; but right now Kano is not producing because of maintenance going on in one of the dams,” Nwegwen said.
There is currently an unusual hike in the price of tomatoes, a major commodity produced in Jos, despite the fact that Plateau State is one of the states producing tomatoes in commercial quantity in Nigeria, a country ranked as the 14th largest producer of tomatoes globally, and second largest producer in Africa.
Tomatoes which are usually available at a lower price in Jos from December to March are however quite expensive this year compared to last year. As at this time last year, a small basket of tomatoes was sold for N1000 while a big basket was sold for N2000. However, a small basket of tomatoes is currently sold at between N3000 to N3500 while the big basket is sold at N4500.
Ngwen, who said it is difficult to ascertain the quantity of tomatoes produced in Plateau State out of the country’s approximately 1.8 million tonnes total, said getting data is difficult because the about 5000 tomatoes farmers in the state are “scattered all over the state,” pointing this as one of the reasons, apart from lack of enabling environment, why a tomatoes paste production company that was considering establishing a plant in Jos had to move to Kaduna because tomatoes farmers in Plateau State are not clustered in one location where the company could have had access to larger quantities of the crop.
“We used to have a tomato paste processing company around Barkin Ladi that folded up, giving lack of raw materials as the reason behind the closure. I don’t know how true it is, sometimes these businesses leave due to lack of an enabling environment,” Nwegwen further explained.
On whether Plateau State and the rest of Nigeria can tap into the over $9 billion global tomatoes market in terms of exporting and tomatoes paste production, Nwegwen said exporting the commodity “is based on specification, and certification is difficult to obtain as tomatoes from Plateau State has only been exported to South Africa and Kenya on rare occasions.”