Ibrahim Shuaibu writes that in Kano State, Dangote has boosted tomato farming by setting up a processing plant, thus enhancing the economy of the local farmers, as the technology is expected to increase their harvest from the current 10 tonnes per acre to as much as 40 tonnes
Tomato production has been identified as one of the lucrative sectors that will create employment and boost Nigeria's economy. A firm believer in this, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who also doubles as Africa's richest man, has tapped into the sector by setting up a tomato processing company in Kano State.
This has by far boosted the economic growth of the state and has encouraged tomato farmers. This is in itself is not surprising. According to reports by the Dangote Tomatoes Processing Limited, which is a subsidiary of Dangote Farms, Nigeria spends an average of $360 million on importation of tomato paste. This, the company lamented has seen large sums of money was moved to other countries for importation.
Taking measures to prevent such capital flight, the company intends to boost the morale of the tomato farmers, who will be kings in their field, by enriching themselves through the purchase of their products by the company.
According to the Managing Director of the Dangote Tomato Processing Company in Kano, Mr. Abdulkarim Lawal Kaita, if the government can impose total ban on tomato paste importation as it has done on rice, the company would make the country sufficient in the production of the commodity within one year.
Shedding more light on their plans, he said the Dangote Tomato Company is now set to continue production as it has established green house that can produce 350 million seedlings annually, adding that the whole facility cost the factory N3 billion. This he said would house hybrid seedlings capable of producing up to 100 tons per hectare in a season.
He said: "The seedlings are hybrid, capable of producing up to 100 tons per hectare in a season. We are going to change the concept of tomato production in Nigeria. Currently, the types of varieties grown by the local farmers cannot grow more than 10 tons per hectare. But these seedlings we are producing are capable of producing 40 tons per hectare. If a serious farmer gets it, he can produce up to 100 tons per hectare in a season. We want to make Nigeria sufficient in tomato production. But this could only be achieved if the federal government completely bans the importation of tomato paste into Nigeria."
Furthermore, when the green house starts rolling out the seedlings and farmers start planting and getting the 40 to 100 tons per hectare, the whole scenario in tomato production would change for the better. Notwithstanding, Kaita said the factory has set aside arrangements to improve the socio-economic life of the people through tomato production and processing, adding that it is located at Kadawa, Kano, along busy Kano- Abuja Road.
Given that Nigeria consumes 2.3 million tons of tomatoes paste, he noted that they "have the capacity to produce 8 million tons annually, exceeding local consumption. You can now imagine how much the country can make on foreign exchange".
Stressing that the farm, which is fully automated, is the largest and first of its kind in West Africa, he pointed out that the farm is expected to enhance the economy of the local tomato farmers, as the technology is expected to increase their harvest from the current 10 tons per acre to as much as 40 tons per acre.
According to him, "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 seedling 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."
Kaita who further noted that the introduction of the technology will put an end to post-harvest loses, as well as increase the volume of harvest of the commodity, said: "based on study under the GEMS project, from the 12 states that engage in massive tomato production, there is over 171,000 hectares of land for tomato production, and if you multiple 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 government effects the ban on the importation of the commodity, just as it has been done in the case of rice, Nigeria will soon become net exporter of the commodity."
Malam Inuwa Kadawa, a tomato farmer , told THISDAY that the coming of Dangote tomatoe processing company in their area has improved the economy of the villagers, created employment opportunies and elevate their optimism of becoming richer through their farm input.
His testimonial and those of other famers have come to reinforce that the coming of Dangote into Kano tomato business will boost the agribusiness economy of the peasant farmers in the state. Given these testimonials, stakeholders and agricultural experts noted that more of its kind are needed in the North to improve the country's economy.