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Abdulkarim Lawal Kaita, managing director of Dangote Farms, says there is a need to place a total ban on the importation of processed tomatoes if the federal government wants to ensure that locally made farm produce is available for export.
Speaking on Friday at the unveiling of a N3 billion greenhouse nursery in Kano, Kaita said Nigeria consumes 2.3 million tonnes of tomato paste while there is the capacity to produce eight million tonnes.
The greenhouse is designed to process between 300 and 350 million tonnes of hybrid tomatoes seedlings to make Nigeria self-sufficient in tomatoes production.
According to him, the company’s new investment in the production of fresh and processed tomatoes is capable of stopping the $350 million spent annually on the importation of processed tomatoes.
“We have the capacity to produce 8 million tonnes annually, exceeding local consumption. You can now imagine how much the country can make on foreign exchange,” he said.
“The management of the Dangote Tomatoes Processing Limited which is a subsidiary of Dangote Farms is excited to reveal the tremendous effort that we are making to ensure that Nigeria becomes self –sufficient in tomato production.
“The planting medium you are looking at is called Pat Moose which has the capacity of producing 350 million seedlings per season that can be used to plant an estimated 12,000 hectares of tomato farm.
“We are glad to disclose that we are the first to bring this new technology into the country and this is going to fast track the yield of our tomato farmers tremendously.
“The project is being executed under the CBN Tomato Anchor-Borrowers Programme. The CBN will be paying for the seedling that we are cultivating, and it will be distributed to farmers.
“The Pat Moose process you are seeing takes three weeks, after which it goes to the next stage, and the whole process of growing the tomato takes just three months.”
Shedding more light into the value addition which the greenhouse farm would provide, Kaita said the introduction of the technology will put an end to post-harvest losses, as well as increase the harvest of the commodity.
“Based on study under the GEMS project, from the 12 States that engage in massive tomato production, there are over 171,000 hectares of land for tomato production, and if you multiply this with the over 40 tons which the technology is capable of producing per hectare, that means we can grow our production to around 8 million tons.
“With this in the next two years, if the government affects the ban on the importation of the commodity, just as it has been done in the case of rice, Nigeria will soon become a net exporter of the commodity.”