Stakeholders in the tomato industry in the country have commended the Federal Government for the new tomato policy enacted to protect local paste processors in the country.
The blue-print of the policy which was developed by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI) is in line with the Federal Government’s goal of boosting production, improving the value chain and attracting investment.
“With the new tomato policy, the government is on the right direction, though it has taking so long, we are very pleased with it,” said Sanni Dangote, president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) and vice president, Dangote Industries.
“The policy will encourage farmers to grow on large scale without fear that their produce will get wasted. This will boost local tomato production and within the next two years Nigeria will be exporting concentrates,” Dangote said.
He said that the policy will also encourage more investment in the industry, urging government to ensure proper monitoring and evaluation of the policy.
Currently, Nigeria imports an average of 150,000 metric tons of tomato concentrate per annum valued at $170million mostly due to inadequacy in capacity to produce tomato concentrate, industry data states.
Tomato demand in Nigeria is put at 2.2 million metric tons per annum, while annual actual production is 1.5 million metric tonnes but 700,000 metric tonnes are lost to post harvest wastage, leaving only 800,000 metric tonnes supplied to the market, data obtained from the agric ministry shows.
According to a Tomato Policy Direction Paper made available to BusinessDay, large quantity of tomato paste consumed in Nigeria is being smuggled from Benin Republic and Niger due to duty differentials and forex bans.
Eric Umeofia, chief executive officer, Erisco Foods Limited, commended the government on the policy, stating that it is a good initiative that the industry has been long waiting for if it is well implemented.
Umeofia urged the government to ensure good implantation of the policy.
The new policy would also stop importation of tomatoes preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid, in addition to increase of the tariff on tomato concentrates to 50 percent with an addition levy of $1,500 per metric tonnes.
The policy would also ensure the restriction of the importation of tomato concentrate to the seaports, to address the abuse of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS); ensure inclusion of tomato production and processing in the list of industries eligible for investment incentives administered by the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
Nigeria is the 13th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and the second after Egypt in Africa, yet the country is unable to meet local demand because about 40 percent of tomato produce is wasted due to poor packaging, transportation and storage.