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‘We need to save Nigeria from losing N4.41bn on importing tomato concentrate’

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In the fight against importation of foreign goods , the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) is working to save the nation from losing N4.41bn to importation of tomato concentrate. BINTA SHAMA reports.

 Global per capita consumption

The study on tomatoes shows that its specie is a superlative vegetable, whose global per capita consumption is 20 kilograms per year. It further states that tomatoes are the most important vegetables with about 160 million tonnes produced in 2011, or about 15 % of total vegetable production.

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According to FAO statistics, world vegetable production has quintupled over the past five decades to reach about one billion tonnes of vegetables. Considering population growth, this has resulted in a doubling of the per capita consumption of vegetables from approximately 50 kg in 1963 to 102 kg in 2009. In the same period, tomato consumption increased from 7.5 kg to 20.5 kg / year / per capita, either fresh or processed, on world average.

 World leader in vegetable consumption

With 159 kg per year, Asia is the world leader in vegetable consumption, while Latin America ranks last with a per capita consumption of only 55 kg per year. However, tomato consumption in these regions of the world is very similar with 14 to 17 kg per year. Europe and North America have about the same level of vegetable consumption with 120 kg per year. North Americans consume a record 42 kg of tomatoes per year, much of it as sauce for pizza and pasta, while Europeans consume about 31 kg per capita and year – with the exception of Italy, where tomato consumption reaches 60 kg per year (FAO stat).

The top five tomato producers are China, India, the USA, Turkey and Egypt, representing about 60 % of the world production. Yet, according to the United Nations international trade statistics, UN Comtrade, Mexico is the leading exporter of fresh tomatoes, followed by the Netherlands and Spain. The USA, despite its high level of production, is the leading importer of fresh tomatoes, followed by Russia and Germany. With regard to processed tomatoes – mainly paste, canned or other preserved tomatoes – Italy clearly dominates exports, even over China. The third category of tomato products listed in the international trade statistics is tomato ketchup or other tomato sauces not included in the “processed” category, however with much smaller trade volumes.

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The overview of producing and exporting countries demonstrates the great diversity in production conditions between the competitors on global tomato markets. Tomatoes are produced in open fields, in greenhouses or under plastic covers; in tropical, subtropical and temperate climates, and with machine harvesting (for processing) or manual harvesting (for fresh markets).

According to research, over the last decade, the production of fresh tomatoes in Nigeria has grown by 25% from 1.8 million tonnes to an estimated 2.3 million tonnes. However, this growth has been primarily facilitated by continuous increase in the harvested area for tomatoes from 265,000 hectares to 668,292 hectares in the same period.

Largest producer in Africa 

Research further shows that Nigeria is currently the second largest producer of fresh tomatoes in Africa, producing 10.8 % of fresh tomatoes in the region. Globally, it is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes with 2.3 million tonnes in 2016. Over the last decade the production of fresh tomatoes in Nigeria has grown to 25% from 1.8 million tonnes to an estimated 2.3 million tonnes. However, Nigeria is said to be one of the largest consumers of vegetables in sub-saharan Africa with about 22kg per capita. Specifically, Nigeria consumes an estimate of 2.3 million tonnes of tomatoes annually with tomato consumption at 12kg in 2016.

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FG/RMRDC intervention in domestic production

Government is working towards increasing domestic production. In an effort to boost and increase domestic production, improve value and attract more investment, the federal government announced a new tomato policy in 2017. The policy is said to aim at discouraging importation by increasing tariffs on tomato concentrate 5% to 50% and introducing USD 1,500 levy per tonne.

The Council played a significant role in the reduction of import of tomatoes and its concentrates into the country to encourage backward integration and development of tomato value chain. In 2015, the country expended 4.41 billion naira to import about 554,000 tonnes of triple concentrate tomato used as raw materials. It was against this background that the Council published its maiden edition of Raw Materials Advisory Brief on Tomatoes which provided veritable data and information that guided government in promoting local sourcing of raw materials for the producers of tomato products in the country. The information provided through the Advisory Brief led to the ban on import of tomato concentrates and emplacement of structures to develop national capacity.

RMRDC collaborates, trains farmers to improve sector

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The lack of cultivation of improved seeds variety with high yields potentials as revealed by the Council’s scooping study and the emergence of tomato ebola (tuta absoluta) were partly responsible for the low yield per hectare experienced in the country by tomato farmers. To address this, the Council in collaboration with other stakeholders, developed and boosted improved high yielding and disease resistant variety which was distributed to farmers across the country. Most of the farmers recorded between 15-30 tonnes/hectare using local varieties as against 90 tonnes/hectare of the improved variety. Consequently, the Council provided farmers in Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Niger, Kano, and Kaduna states respectively with 387kg of improved open pollinated seeds. Between 2015 and 2017, the Council increased farmers’ to improved varieties including those from Oyo, Katsina, Kebbi, Benue and Gombe states. Following the tomato ebola disease that ravaged tomato farms across the country in 2016, the Council in 2018 distributed 30kg of improved variety of tomato seeds to farmers in Oyo State, while farmers were trained on  best agronomic practices to be adopted in planting the improved tomato variety in partnership with some communities (for example, Riyom, Plateau, State) and over 700 farmers benefited. In addition, over 56000 tonnes of processing grade tomato were produced and made  available to the industries.

Most of the tomato farmers are observed not to be literate in English language, but are able to read and write in local languages like:  Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba, depending on their geographical locations. 

Similarly, in the effort to improve the strategy and give verve to the development and utilization of local raw materials for industries, the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Association of Agricultural and Industrial Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AIEN).

Speaking, the Director General RMRDC Professor Hussain Doko Ibrahim said the agreement is intended to forge a viable collaboration between the two parties to enhance the production and utilization of agro-raw materials and products in clusters for domestic industries and for exports.

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He further said that it was necessary to adopt the strategy of cluster development initiative and Public Private Partnership (PPP), as the new direction to go for realizing growth and national development because of the huge socio-economic  benefits that it holds for the nation.

“RMRDC is poised to provide technical support based on our experiences in cluster development initiative and the use of our spread in the 36 states and FCT to ensure the realization of these lofty objectives. I also wish to point out that AIEN has a workable platform of entrepreneurs and industries that will provide the boots on ground for targeted raw materials and products for which they will also guarantee off-takers to ensure the success of the collaboration. “

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