Vegefresh Company Limited, a wholly indigenous farm facility development and management company and the National Institute of Horticultural Research (NIHORT) at the weekend entered into a memorandum of understanding aimed at boosting tomato production and processing in Nigeria.
Speaking at the occasion, Head, Project Planning - Vegefresh Company Limited, Olumide Ojo said that one of the sub-sectors where Nigeria had comparative advantages was the tomato industry with Nigeria ranking as the second largest producer of tomato in Africa and 13th largest in the world.
He said the absence of effective public-private partnership and neglect of agriculture in government policy formulation had undermined the potential of the tomato industry as well as the entire agricultural sector.
According to him, Nigeria's agriculture has suffered tremendous neglect due mainly to lack of coordinated synergies between stakeholders in the industry; especially in institutionalising platforms for value chain system that could drive agricultural development.
"Regrettably however, more than 50 per cent of harvested tomatoes are lost to post-harvest spoilage due mainly to lack of value chain capacities of processing and packaging.
The attendant effects are further impoverishing of tomato farmers, low productivity, low economic contribution, continual discouragement of interested investors and capital flight through importation of tomato products", Ojo said.
He noted that Vegefresh Company was championing a renewed drive at revolutionising agriculture through the establishment of value chain systems in Nigeria pointing out that the motive of the company is to fully industrialise the sector through the introduction of contemporary farming models and processing technologies that will propel the sector to create massive employment opportunities, significant contribution to national GDP and attainment of food security.
He said NIHORT was the considered technical partner in the project of turning around the lot of tomato production in Nigeria because the institute remained a strategic organisation in the field of horticultural research in the world; having successfully carried out several landmark research works on better approaches to the production and processing of fruits, vegetables, ornamental crops amongst others.
Ojo added that NIHORT was endowed with faculties of world-renowned researchers who have contributed in no small measure to the development of horticulture and allied industry the world over.