Vice President of Dangote Industries Limited, Sani Dangote has lauded the new government policy on tomatoes saying it would encourage increased local production and self-sufficiency.
Speaking on the heels of the new policy aimed at reducing N52billion spent on the annual importation of 150, 000 metric tons of tomato concentrate through the neighboring countries into Nigeria, he said that the nation has enough arable land to cultivate and meet local demand for tomatoes.
He noted that tomatoes remain one of the easiest crops to cultivate in all the geopolitical zones as the nation is blessed with arable land suitable for crop cultivation.
Dangote opined that prior to the new policy, farmers lose about 50percent of their tomato harvest as there are not enough processing plants to buy the fresh produce and turn them into concentrate. These heavy losses, according to him, discouraged farmers from cultivating tomatoes.
Furthermore, he said that the new policy will encourage farmers to cultivate more tomatoes, earn more money as they sell to processing plants and with decrease in importation of concentrate, the nation saves huge sums in foreign exchange.
For those clamouring for an extension in the time given for the implantation, he said that since 2010, the government has been discussing with stakeholders on the need for backward integration in the tomato industry. He explained that plants for production of tomato paste comes in different sizes ranging from small to medium and large scales therefore giving producers various options of investment in the industry.
He emphasised that Nigeria, given her resources and abundant arable land, has no business importing tomato concentrate.
He said: â€˜We are working for production of more tomatoes through an out-growers scheme, but this will not feasible if there are no processing plants to take the excess products off the hands of the farmers. This policy is for every stakeholder. The Vice President visited our farms and plants to see things for himself and he was very impressed. Government stance and policy should be commended.â€™
The new policy is aimed at promoting local production of fresh tomato fruit required for fresh fruit consumption and processing. It also increases local production of tomato concentrate and reduces post-harvest losses. The policy is expected to create at least 60,000 additional jobs in fresh fruits production and processing.
The policy restricts the importation of tomato concentrates to the seaports to address the abuse of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS); stops the importation of tomatoes preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid; and increases the tariff on tomato concentrate to 50per cent with an additional levy of $1,500 per metric tonne.
Nigeria imports an average of 150,000 metric tonnes of tomato concentrate per annum valued at $170million mostly due to inadequacy in capacity to produce tomato concentrate. Current demand for fresh tomato fruits is estimated at about 2.45million metric tonnes per annum while the country produces only about 1.8million metric tonnes per annum.