Nume Ekeghe and Ugo Aliogo
The President, Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Nike Akande, has called on the federal government to support local production of tomato pastes in Nigeria, pointing out that this would help the country attain self-sufficiency in food production and boost local consumption.
Also, NLC scribe cum Secretary General of the Textile Workers’ Union, Issa Aremu, has urged the federal government to ban the importation of tomato paste into the country.
The duo made the call during the unveiling of Erisco Foods Innovation Tomato Processing Technology in Lagos. The equipment converts dry and fresh tomatoes into finished products.
Akande said that agriculture can play a vital role in the economic development of Nigeria, stressing that manufacturing and industrialisation are the key drivers for growth and economic transformation for any nation.
She commended Erisco Foods for the tomato processing plant and urged its management to continue to encourage local production of made – in – Nigeria goods.
Speaking in the same vein, Aremu said noted that Nigeria has the capacity to be self-sufficient in tomato paste production.
He said: “We want to add our voice to the demand of Erisco Foods Chairman that we can see today that Nigeria has the capacity to be self-sufficient in tomato paste production. And if we are self-sufficient, the government must ban importation of tomato paste into the country. “This factory has the capacity to produce 450,000 metric tons of tomato paste and our local demand is about 250,000. Which means we have the capacity to feed ourselves and export? So why should we allow unnecessary importation into the country.”
Also, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, who was represented by Mrs. Olufunke Aleshinloye, lauded the company for the giant stride attained with the procurement of the new innovative technology. He said that the economy requires such innovations and economic diversification in order to stimulate job creation in the agricultural sector.
Ngige called on the firm’s management not to relent in its efforts at carrying out business activities responsibly, while urging them to ensure compliance with labour related matters, occupational, health, safety standards as well as various statutory obligations.
On his part, the Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Erisco Foods Limited, Mr. Eric Umuofia, said the economy was losing money due to combination of evil forces against the nation by some unpatriotic Nigerians and foreign economic mafias that always want to milk the economy dry, especially with substandard tomatoes paste imported from China.
He said: “In Nigeria alone, we have a tomatoes paste processing plant with processing capacity of above 450,000 metric tons per annum, among other product lines.”
He expressed worry that regulatory agencies such as the National Agency for Food Drug and Administration Control (NAFDAC) and the Ministry of Health had failed to place confidence in an indigenous company becoming a leading brand in the production of tomato paste in Nigeria.
Umuofia explained that despite the industrial challenges facing Nigeria, the country remains the biggest importer of tomato paste in the world despite that over 75 per cent of fresh tomatoes harvested are wasted yearly.
He noted: “The Indians that form the majority of the people that import substandard tomato paste into Nigeria, and China which produces the substandard do not consume in their own countries, the same quality of tomato paste they produce and bring into Nigeria. Still they pay little or nothing as import duty.”
He added: “We thank President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) – led government’s determination to task us (Nigeria) to produce what we need and eat what we have. From his directive, we swung into action and the result is what we witnessed today; that is the ability to convert fresh and dried Nigeria fresh tomatoes into paste that will be able to save our nation over US$1billion being spent annually on importation of tomato paste.
“In addition, we will also export and earn hundreds of millions of dollars in 2017 after meeting the tomato needs of every Nigerian by December 2016, provided that government stops the dumping of sub-standard tomato paste on us. We are set to employ over 50,000 youths in two to three years and create over five million jobs for farmers.”