Naija Foodie Update

Foodie Naija Update (Nigerian Government Throws Support Behind Local Tomato Paste)

A few months after the outbreak of the tuta absoluta plague in Nigeria, the government has finally announced its willingness to support local tomato paste producers in the country.

This was revealed by the Minister of State for Industry, Trade
and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, during a tour of the Erisco Food Limited
facility. “The planned policy on tomato will protect local tomato paste manufacturers
and ensure an end to the importation of substandard tomato paste,” said Aisha.

During a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja before this, Hajia Aisha remarked that the government was developing a policy on tomatoes to address the current scarcity of tomatoes in the country.

So far, Nigeria’s indigenous tomato paste industry has
been unable to grow due to the high importation of
inadequate products, mostly from China and Italy. Although
restrictions placed by the Central Bank of Nigeria have been able to reduce the level of entry of these products, the sector is still affected by
smugglers who bring it in through the various unmanned borders around
Nigeria.

“We have the capacity to meet the demands of Nigeria and export more but there is no market the substandard
products from China and smuggled products have taken a large chunk of our
market share,” said Eric Umeofia, Erisco Foods CEO, one of the leading manufacturers of tomato paste in Nigeria, during an
interview with Vanguard newspaper.

Contrary to this, during an interview last year, Alhaji Sani
Dangote, the Chairman of the
newly established Dangote Farms in Kano, mentioned that the Chinese are gradually becoming jittery because they suspect their grip on the market will be
terminated.

In order for them
to still own a significant share, they may be forced to
reduce their prices so as to reduce the demand for Dangote’s version of the product.
The Nigerian government has
taken some steps to address the issues plaguing tomato
production in the country.

According to Hajia Aisha, the major decision Nigeria has
taken in this regard is to develop a tomato policy under the National Industrial
Revolution Programme. A
technical committee to work on the policy draft is set to take-off this week so that an approved plan will be in place before the next tomato season.

In support of this new policy, the government plans to
engage the farmers with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and other related ministries.

Additionally, the government is trying to find out the
production capacity of local manufacturers as this will enable the development of
policies to protect them, in turn.

Quick facts about the tomato industry in Nigeria:
1. Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world.
2. It is the largest producer of
tomatoes in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. It is the eighth largest importer of tomato paste in the world after Iraq and
Japan.
4. The country has a
significant demand for processed tomatoes but, almost half of the tomato
pastes found in its markets have been imported from
China and Italy.
5. Last year, the Director General and CEO of the Raw
Material and Research and Development Council (RMRDC),
Dr. Hussaini Ibrahim, revealed that Nigeria spends about $1.5 billion annually on
tomato product importation from China and other parts of the world.

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