Tomato processing plants would need up to three million metric tonnes of quality processing grade tomato fruits domestically to feed Nigeria’s local demand for tomato puree sufficiently, says Hussaini Ibrahim, the director-general of the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC). He said that access to improved seeds had become imperative for the government’s drive at enhancing agricultural practices.
Ibrahim said at the distribution of improved tomato seeds to vegetable farmers in Ibadan, that tomato, being a strategic crop, was one of the selected commodities to drive the policy thrust of the government.
The objective, he said, was to process tomato into paste and other value-added products particularly to discourage the importation of non-triple concentrate tomato paste.
Nigeria expends over $170 million annually on tomato concentrate importation, a situation which is an offshoot of poor capacity for domestic production and lack of critical infrastructure for harvest protection.
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“Oyo state was selected because of its ecology and comparative advantage in cultivating tomato all year round if appropriate varieties are used in its Guinea Savanna. Through these efforts post-harvest losses of good quality tomato fruits will be minimised. Based on this the RMRDC initiated the project on the development of tomato value chain with a view to addressing the challenge of raw materials deficit amongst others in the sub-sector. RMRDC facilitated farmers’ access to improved seeds in Nasarawa state in the 2014/15 planting season and Plateau and Taraba states in 2015/16 cropping season,” he said.
The director general, represented by the RMRDC’s John Obekpa, the assistant director (investment) explained that government policy had stimulated the establishment of new tomato processing plants as well as the resuscitation of some hitherto comatose tomato concentrating plants.
“Oyewole Oyewumi, the Oyo state commissioner for agriculture and rural development reiterated the state’s commitment to advancing the agricultural sector for the benefit of the nation, saying “this explains why the state developed a 25-year Agricultural Road Map Policy for Oyo State in collaboration with IITA/NISER.”