Nigeria’s tomato policy, which was enacted six month ago is yet to take a foothold since implementation commenced in May.
The country is the 13th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and second after Egypt in Africa, yet the country is the largest importer of tomato paste globally as the country is still unable to meet local demand.
“For now the impact of the tomato paste policy is not yet there, we are still watching and we hope by next year when the importers have exhausted all they imported before the policy commenced, we would begin to see the impact,” Abdulkarim Kaita, managing director, Dangote Tomato Processing Factory said.
“We have processed fresh tomatoes into concentrates since April hoping that importers would start buying locally but this is yet to happen. There is still no market for it and we have a lot of quantity in stock.
“It is one thing to put a policy in place and it is another thing to ensure it is fully implemented. A lot of importers anticipated the tomato paste policy and filled their warehouse with imported concentrates before the policy even commenced,” Kaita said.
Kaita noted that the country could grow 6000 tons of fresh tomatoes yearly but is yet to capitalise on the potential owing to the inability of the government to effectively implement policies that would drive investments and serve as an incentives for farmers to grow more.
In April this year, the Federal Government put a 50 percent import tariff, alongside an additional levy of $1,500 per metric ton on imported concentrates into the country while out-rightly banning the importation of tomato paste and this policy took effect in May.
But the policy has been very slow to take effect on the sector as no tomato paste industry is currently in operation in Nigeria.
Recently, BusinessDay surveyed some of the markets in Lagos and its environs and discovered that a lot of foreign tomato pastes are still in the shelves of traders in the market. This shows that imported paste are still finding its way into the Nigerian market.
Speaking with BusinessDay, Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) said that the policy has been slow to have real impact because of the resistance of the importers who are bent on frustrating the policy.
“The problem we have is that the importers have turned out to be a very powerful group and this is so sad because not a single tomato produced in the country is used for the paste Nigerians are consuming,” Ijewere said.
“The government realised this and has enacted the policy but the importers are fighting back. This is the same problem we have with rice and chicken,” he added.
Ijewere stated that the policy approach was focused on addressing the issue from the processing end and eventually trickles down to the smallholder farmers. He noted that the country is losing billions of dollars annually to post-harvest losses.
He called on the government to educate farmers on best practices and provide them with improved seed verities to increase their yield per hectare.
Africa’s biggest economy produces 1.5 million tons of tomato per annum, with 0.7 million metric tons post-harvest loss. Tomato demand in Nigeria is put at 2.2 million metric tons per annum, leaving a gap of 700,000 metric tons, according to official data from the Agricultural Ministry.
Olatunde Oderinde, team lead, Market Development in the Niger Delta (MADE) said that Nigeria would only benefit from the tomato paste policy when all issues affecting all actors along the value chain are effectively resolved.
“We are yet to have a policy life cycle in Nigeria where every player in the industry is carried along and where their challenges are addressed holistically,” Oderinde said.
“Nigeria needs to work deliberately on policies that create inclusiveness. We need to sort out the issue of competitiveness to keep farmers productive and if we can provide them with a guaranteed market the smallholder farmers will produce more,” he added.