By Hamid Ayodeji
Olam Nigeria has expressed its preparedness to enhance the agriculture sector of the country by up scaling the production and processing in the nation’s tomato value chain.
The firm disclosed that it was set 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.
According to a statement issued by the company, it recently embarked on a pilot farming project in the country, which is executed by its subsidiary, Caraway Africa Nigeria Ltd thereby, acquiring 20 hectares of land and set up farms in Karfi, Kano State, as well as Jigawa State.
The Vice President, Olam Nigeria, Reji George, in the statement noted that by September, the firm would be set to support 1,000 farmers and acquire 500 hectares of land as it commences a farmers’ out grower programme.
According to him, the commercial pilot farming initiative which Olam Nigeria was embarking upon was a precursor to a backward integration project for tomato paste production which will commence in March 2021.
“A major challenge confronting the production of tomatoes in Nigeria is a lack of good variety seeds to buy. Another problem is extremely poor yields as low tomato production lead 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 due to lack of proper storage and preservation facilities.
“However, in order to address this, we have signed an MoU with the World Vegetable Centre, a globally renowned research institute and prominent seed producer and developer, for the supply of 18 varieties of seeds, exclusively for our production,” he said.
George added that: “We have also decided to go for an additional eight varieties of hybrid tomato seeds already existing in Nigeria which have a higher yield potential, but which, the farmers are not using due to its cost. We have selected tomato seed varieties which produce fresh tomatoes as well as the variants which are good for tomato processing.
“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. The tomatoes are products of the Nigerian hybrid seeds and the World Vegetable Centre seeds which were planted on a trial basis.”