By Nume Ekeghe
The Chief Executive Officer, Erisco Foods Limited, Mr. Eric Umeofia has said that his firm is targeting to achieve one million metric tonnes of tomato processing by the fourth quarter 2016.
Umeofia, made this known at the Katsina State Economic Summit recently. He also commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment and support towards backward integration and economic stability.
Umeofia said: “It is a complete shame and embarrassment that while we waste our tomatoes in our backyards, we use our hard-earned money to import sub-standard tomato pastes from other countries. Meanwhile with Erisco Foods Limited and Dangote Farms, Nigeria does not need to ever import tomato paste into our country again.
“Erisco Foods alone has an installed capacity to produce 450, 000 metric tons of tomato paste per annum but we are currently utilising less than 20 per cent. Our target is to hit one million metric tonnes per annum when our Katsina, Jigawa and Sokoto state projects come on stream by the last quarter of this year as far as we receive adequate support.”
He added: “We believe that with faithful implementation of President Buhari’s policies Nigeria should move from being the largest importer of tomato pastes to one of the largest exporters of tomato paste in the world. Is it not an irony that at a time when Nigeria is striving to go into the orbit and make giant strides in science and technology, Nigerians still cannot provide our basic needs like simple tomato paste and other food products which we can provide better by ourselves for us to eat healthy in our own country.”
A research by Agusto and Company recently stated that although Nigeria accounts for about 10.8 per cent of Africa’s tomato production, the country imports processed tomato paste in excess of 300,000 metric tonnes valued at over $80 million (₦16 billion) annually from China and Italy.
Nigeria is believed to be China’s highest tomato export destination as the country is the eighth largest importer of tomato paste in the world.
Furthermore, the Erisco Foods boss added: “It will however shock Nigerians that while genuine manufacturers such as Erisco Foods and Dangote Farms are working hard to ensure full backward integration in the tomato sub-sector, a cabal of tomato importers have been very busy lobbying and deceiving well-placed government officials to stop them from taking actions that will transform Nigeria’s tomato sector for the better.”