By Stanley Nkwazema in Abuja
Following allegations of importation of fake and substandard tomato paste from China and into Nigeria, a coalition of tomato dealers under the auspices of Association of Stakeholders in Edible Consumer Products in Nigeria (AECPIN) has faulted the call for a total ban on importation of tomato.
They alleged that it was a de-marketing strategy which would create a monopoly as Nigeria could not produce enough to satisfy the need of consumers.
This is coming just as NAFDAC has dismissed claims of the alleged circulation of cancer causing tomatoes in the market.
The group also accused some indigenous companies of misleading the nation saying allegations of fake tomato paste imported into the country was a carefully orchestrated strategy by them to enjoy monopoly.
The AECPIN, made up of 24 companies in a memorandum submitted to the House of Representatives by its leader, Mr. Ikenna Ameachi argued that “the allegations that tomato paste brand in Nigeria are substandard and dangerous for human consumption, we state this is an attempt to cause panic in the market place and was said with malicious intent.
“Tomato does not cause cancer this much is known; so the terminology “cancer causing tomato” is misleading. If there are ingredients in tomato paste that are carcinogenic, that is a different issue and it is for NAFDAC to identify those components and ban them.
“To the best of our knowledge, our products do not contain any ingredients that have been found to be carcinogenic or unfit for consumption”, the group submitted.
AECPIN further noted that “where any imported edible consumer product is found to be dangerous, toxic or harmful to health, it is the sole duty of NAFDAC to recall such goods from the market, seal the warehouses where they are stored and sanction the culpable party accordingly. There is no record that this is so”
“The argument that the tomato may have been smuggled does not hold water either because if the tomato were smuggled that means they did not go through screening and a ban on tomato will not address the issue as they have been operating outside the law ab initio. If the issue is with smuggling, then it is a wild claim to say that 91 percent of tomato paste is poisonous as it is impossible for 91 per cent of tomato paste in the market to be smuggled.
“It is therefore clear that if there are any substandard tomato products in Nigeria, they did not pass through the stringent due process established by the responsible agencies; they are most probably smuggled and if they were smuggled banning the importation of tomato paste would not be the solution as the smuggling would continue as a matter of course”
Alternatively, AECPIN said “it advocates a thorough fight against the importation of any substandard edible consumer products into Nigeria but we will not support where people will hide under contrived figures to wage a pseudo battle against its competitors. We therefore call for thorough investigation using world accepted standards to discover if there are any substandard products and apply the necessary sanctions where necessary”