Olam International the multinational food and agribusiness company has signed an MoU with the World Vegetable Centre, a globally renowned research institute and prominent seed producer to supply 18 varieties of tomato seeds, exclusively for Caraway Africa Nigeria.
“We have also decided to go for an additional eight varieties of hybrid tomato seeds already existing in Nigeria which have higher yield potential, but which the farmers are not using because of the cost.”
“We have selected tomato seed varieties which produce fresh tomatoes as well as the variants which are good for tomato processing,” said Reji George, Olam Nigeria’s Vice President in charge of Farming Initiatives.
This is in line with the Federal Government of Nigeria’s initiative to attain self-sufficiency in tomato production and processing.
Olam through its subsidiary Caraway Africa Nigeria Ltd embarked on a pilot tomato farming project in the country.
They acquired 20 hectares of land for this purpose and set up farms in Karfi, Kano State, as well as Masama and Guri, both located in Jigawa State.
While the tomatoes were transplanted in October 2019, harvest commenced in February 2020 with preliminary results pointing to a bountiful harvest.
According to Reji, each of the farms were on course to produce 30 metrics tons of tomato per hectare, as against the 7.5 metric tons per hectare which is Nigeria’s average yield for tomato.
A major challenge confronting the production of tomatoes in Nigeria is a lack of a good variety of seeds to buy.
Another problem is extremely poor yields as low tomato production leads to higher prices, thereby making it unattractive for processors to purchase.
These challenges are also linked to the unwillingness of farmers to produce tomatoes in large quantity because they want to avoid product decay and losses because of lack of proper storage and preservation facilities.
The tomatoes which are being currently harvested at the Caraway Africa Nigeria Kano and Jigawa farms are considered to be of a higher quality than what is currently being produced by other farmers in terms of size, quality and weight.
Reji George added that Olam would soon commence a farmer’s out-grower programme targeting 1,000 farmers in the first year.
They will also acquire about 500 hectares of land for the purpose which would kick off by September 2020 with the first set of tomatoes ready for harvest by February 2021.
According to him, the farmer out-grower programme would be modelled after the Olam Rice Outgrower initiative, which he described as the best out-grower scheme in Nigeria.
This development comes weeks after, Dangote Tomatoes Processing Limited, inaugurated an N2.8 billion (US$7.6m) greenhouse nursery in Kano to supply tomato seedlings to Nigerian farmers.
The nursery is designed to use the automated Pat Moose planting technology, the first of its kind in Nigeria with a capacity to produce 350 million tonnes of hybrid tomato seedlings per season enabling the planting of 12,000 hectares of tomato farm.