Despite its position as the largest producer of tomato in Africa, Nigeria is said to be importing tomato paste worth over $360m annually, according the Growth and Employment in States (GEMS4) reports.
According to the report, Nigeria remains the 14th largest producer of tomato in the world, while 45 per cent of its annual production gets wasted as a result of improper preservation and bad handling practices.
Speaking to journalists, during the GEMS4 dissemination Workshop on Agribusiness/Micro retail in Kaduna, its intervention manager, Richard Ogundele, who called for post harvest loss reduction in tomato produce, said Nigeria could feed itself and generate surplus agricultural products for export.
He blamed the loss on Nigerians inability to convert excess production to tomato paste, which he described as the most popular storage version, adding that poor traditional handling practices have created a gap between farmers and processing companies.
Ogundele however, pointed out that despite the 45 per cent loss, out of its current 1.8 million metric tons of tomatoes produced annually, Nigeria has the capacity to produce 2.3 million tons.
“The first thing we need to do is to ensure that we begin to reduce our post harvest losses by having about 124 processing plants in place. If we set up processing plants, for instance in local council areas we mapped during our presentation, this means we will be able to produce enough tomato paste in Nigeria and the need to import will be reduced or totally eliminated over a period of eight to 10 years.
“The post harvest loss reduction has to do with changing the supply chain operation of farmers, this includes handling practices, introducing new packaging materials, ensuring you have storage facilities that are cold chain operated, probably better off, if they are off grid, because there is no constant electricity supply in the country,” he said.
He said GEMS4 is “responsible for ensuring that enough information required to aid any investment is provided, then we expect that the investors will take this information from us and go into a little bit of more analysis before they start setting up processing plant.
“But right now, after we produce the tomato cluster map for instance, in Katsina State the Alducer processing factory is set for operation, that is because they now see that with data available, they know where to get the tomato, when it will be available and what type of tomato will be available to them.”