Naija Foodie Update

Foodie Naija Update (Curtailing The Tomato Scourge)

Making a pot of stew has become a very expensive venture for many Nigerians due to the escalating prices of tomatoes, a critical and ubiquitous part of Nigerian cuisine.

A ravaging insect pest, Tuta absoluta, has destroyed an estimated 40% of anticipated harvest,
causing prices to shoot up by 105% from N17,000 to
N35,000 per basket.

As a result, many fresh tomato sellers have resorted to
purchasing the produce from
neighbouring countries, especially the Republic of Benin
and Cameroun, in order to keep up with supply.

In the face of dwindling oil revenue, diversification of the
local economy cannot be by lip service. The most populated
country in Africa has several agricultural commodities which could be developed into huge export earners through
concrete and deliberate concerted efforts.

These include but not limited to cassava, cocoa, tomato, cotton,
maize, oil palm, soya bean, onion, rice, sorghum, livestock
and fisheries. Some of the challenges facing the agricultural sector have been youth apathy for farming,
infrastructure problems like poor road networks for
distribution of farm produce, lack of storage facilities and
power supply, lack of capital, land policy, absence of data
and political will.

There is an urgent need for the local, state and federal
governments to collaborate and develop a comprehensive data base of rural and urban farmers nationwide and
provide effective disease control measures.

Otherwise,
government would pursue objectives of agricultural policies in isolation and
achieve very minimal results.

The Central Bank of Nigeria should drive the process of ensuring that farmers get access to small scale loans at single-digit interest rates.
The Commissioner of
Agriculture in Kaduna State, Daniel Manzo Maigar said, 200
farmers together lost at least N1billion over the past month.

This can be investigated and the farmers compensated. To further avert
production losses of tomatoes, the total dependence on
tomato supplies from Northern Nigeria should be looked into
as tomatoes can grow on most soil types in Nigeria.

Furthermore, since the universities of agriculture in Nigeria have the tripodal
mandate of teaching, research and extension, the government needs to liase with renowned
researchers in the country.

Nigeria imports tonnes of processed tomato worth over
N10 billion yearly in addition to the massive tonnes produced in Northern Nigeria. Nigeria’s
huge population and the consistent demand for
agricultural products offers wonderful opportunities to
investors.

A question we need
to ask ourselves is what are we doing that such whooping
amount of money has to go to other countries economy? We have got to the point where we need young, savvy
entrepreneurs to break into this sector and start producing, processing and
delivering quality, hygienic tomatoes at very affordable prices.

Today, agriculture contributes 42.62% to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment for
about 70% of the
country’s 167 million people.

The Alliance For Green Revolution in Africa forecasts
that production in Nigeria’s agriculture sector could grow
up significantly by 2030, increasing from the $99 billion
of 2010 to $256 billion by 2030.

That will not only ensure food security, it will also foster
peace and security of lives and property as several idle minds
can be taken off the
streets. Agriculture remains the future of Nigeria. It is high
time we converted our backyards into lovely vegetable
farms.

The new mantra should now be, Operation Feed Our
Households!
Dr. Bukola Adenubi
University of Pretoria, South Africa.

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