From Mustapha Adamu, Kano
As it prepares for the second phase of tomato paste production since its resumption of production last year, the Dangote Tomato Processing Plant has commenced distribution of seedlings to 5,000 local farmers.
The Managing Director of the plant, Abdulkarim Kaita, while signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday, said the seedlings would provide 5,000 hectares of the tomato output.
Kaita added that the beneficiaries are part of the CBN Anchor Borrower Scheme, while there are others outside the programme that would benefit.
He said the factory is moving to attain at least 50 percent of 1,200 metric ton daily production, adding that it would be ok if it gets 600 ton a day.
Kaita however called on the Federal government to put a total ban on the importation of tomato paste into the country.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government to put a total ban on the importation of tomato like what it did to rice,” Kaita said.
He said the call was necessary so as to boost local production of the commodity and ensure that Nigeria is self sufficient in tomato production.
According to him, the ban on the importation of tomato paste would lead to the establishment of more tomato processing plants thereby creating job opportunities for many people in the country.
He lamented that the importation of tomato paste was still thriving as the commodity was being imported from Cameroon and Cotonour in Benin Republic.
According to him, the company had on several occasions visited the Customs Headquarters and met with the Controller General with a view to lodging complaint over the issue but nothing was done to check the ugly trend.
“It is only by putting a total ban on tomato importation that the government can encourage farmers to grow the commodity for the country to be self sufficient,” he said.
He said the company was working with the Central bank of Nigeria under the anchor Borrower programme to provide tomato farmers with high yield seeds which will enable them to produce a minimum of 40 tons per hectare,” he said.
He said the company was putting a lot of effort to ensure that Nigeria is self sufficient in tomato production by establishing the biggest greenhouse in Africa which has the capacity to produce 350 million seedlings annually.
“There are 12 major tomato producing states in the country which if fully cultivated, in the next one year Nigeria will be able to start exporting tomato.
“The greenhouse which is the largest in Africa, is established to provide tomato growers with high yield tomato seedlings in the country.
In his remarks, the chairman, Kano State chapter of the Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria, Sani Danladi-Yadakwari said last year only 1,200 out of 10,000 registered farmers were able to receive the seedlings.
He said each of the 5,000 registered farmers would receive a total loan package of N551, 000 including the seedlings, fertilizer, water pump and other inputs.
He commended the Federal Government for including tomato value chain in the anchor borrower programme as it would go along way in boosting tomato production in the country.