- Nigeria imports an average 150 metric tons of tomato paste yearly
Nigeria is on the verge of reducing the N6 billion currently expended annually in foreign exchange on tomato imports, the Federal Government has said. This is coming barely two months into the announcement of the new tomato policy. Also, Nigeria is set to reduce her average 150 metric tons annually importation of tomato paste.
Reasons for this may not be unconnected with the observation by the government that the new policy on importation of tomatoes has stimulated the establishment of new and emerging processing plants as well as the resuscitation of some hitherto comatose tomato concentrating plants.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okey Enelamah, said this while speaking on the achievements of the new tomato policy in an interview in Lagos.
Enelamah explained that the private public partnership committee set up by the Federal Government on the new tomato policy is already yielding positive results especially on the implemation of curbing importatation of concentrated tomato into the country.
The minister said the revamping of the abandoned local tomato processing plants and the new ones that are springing up has been a catalyst towards achiving sustainable self sufficency in tomato production in-country.
The tomato policy is also part of the Federal Government’s quest to reduce the huge foreign exchange spent on tomato importation.
Particularly, the Industry minister noted that the influx of tomato paste into the country due to lack of regulatory policy in the sector has brought about circulation of sub-standard tomato paste across the country.
His words: “That is why we launched a tomato policy recently. Tomato happens to be a crop that grows very well in Nigeria. Clearly, with this new policy, we can grow all the tomatoes we need – both the ones that are consuming without being processed (fresh) and the ones that are being proccessed into tomato concentrate and which ends up in cooking.
He added: “But what has happened in the sector before we came in was the flooding of cheap tomato paste into the country, of which some of them are substandards.
“So we found out that people are finding it difficult to compete locally.
He added: “So what we’ve done is to issue a new tomato policy that bans first of all, retail of tomato paste and that it should be produced locally. And even for so called packers those who bring in industrial paste and they pack it here. We have basically said that they should pay an extra duty of 50% and of course, there is also a levy of $1500 per tons.
“The idea of the new tomato policy is in favour of local production. And I think we have already seen some positive signals in the processing plants that were redundant now going back to work. “People are basically retooling their abandoned plants.”
Indeed, the industry minister insisted that the government has not totally banned the importation of tomato paste into the country. Rather, it only introduced higher duty, tariff and levy for prospective importers in order to discourage importation of the product.
He said: “Yes. We haven’t stopped people from bringing in the paste, we only said that you will pay more if you bring it here because you have breached the incentive of growing it here. So in a nutshell, we are trying to say that importing paste is a luxury thing whereas, we can grow it locally.”
In the same vein, the Director General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Dr. Hussani Ibrahim, also said the new tomato policy is to curb the challenges of raw materials deficit in the sub-sector.
Ibrahim also in a chat with New Telegraph, said that its agency came up with the initiative to develop tomato across the value chain with a view to solving the challenge of raw materials deficit in the sub-sector.
He said: “With an annual national domestic demand estimated at 2.4 million metric tons, only about 1.7 million metric tons is produced annually, leaving a deficit of 700,000 metric tons due to cultivation of existing low yield varieties and high post-harvest losses.”
He however, advised that in order to operate the plants at optimal capacity and competitively, as well as satisfy the demand for table use, an additional five million metric tons of quality processing grade tomato fruits would be required.
According to him, access to improved seeds must be guaranteed in addition to adopting global best agronomic practices in production and handling.