…strategies to eliminate 0.7 million MT post-harvest loss annually
…Nigerians demand 2.2million MT, produces only 1.5m MT
Experts are insisting there is an investment opportunity for investors in Nigeria’s 60 percent tomato post-harvest losses as a result of poor storage facilities and cold chain infrastructures across the country.
The experts say adopting greenhouse technology made of bamboo and thick trees instead of the regular aluminum panels and developing automated storage facilities will unlock opportunities in the tomato value chain.
According to them, other solutions such as the manufacturing of plastic crates to transport fresh produce to the markets and investing in small modular processing machines to crush fresh tomato and pepper into pastes right inside farming clusters can also be explored by investors.
“Greenhouse farming using bamboo and thick sticks, which is everywhere in the country, is sustainable for tomato production instead of aluminum panels that are more expensive,” says AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer at X-Ray Consulting. “It is very hot in the north and using aluminum for tomato farming absorbs the heat which spoils the tomatoes.”
He said the country can bridge its tomato shortfall and cultivate the vegetable all year round using greenhouse technology. “Countries like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica who are heavy users of bamboo and sticks for greenhouse farming grow their vegetables all year round.”
Most of the people using aluminum are at a loss now as most greenhouses have either been abandoned or underutilised, according to him.
AfricanFarmer said associations and parastatals under the ministry of agriculture have to be more proactive in developing biological solutions or chemicals to solve the prevailing Tuta Absoluta, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’.
“We also need small modular tomato processing plants around the places close to tomato-growing areas. They work better amid local materials, which is why the Bank of Industry must compulsory fund it as an initiative,” he said.
Africa’s biggest economy has more than 200 million people, which ordinarily is a big market for food manufacturers. Tomato is widely consumed in the country, as it is used for soups, stews and others.
The vegetable crop is a valuable part of a healthy diet as it is high in lycopene, a plant compound linked to improved heart health, cancer prevention, and protection against sunburns.
According to a PwC report, the country is the largest consumer of vegetables in sub-Saharan Africa with about 22kg per capita, with tomato consumption put at 12kg per capita in 2016.
Nigeria is the 13th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and the second after Egypt in Africa, yet the country is still unable to meet local demand because about 60 percent of tomato produce is wasted due to a lack of storage facilities, poor handling practice, and poor transportation network across the country.
According to official data from the agricultural ministry, the country produces 1.5 million metric tonnes (MT) of tomato per annum, with 0.7 million MT lost post-harvest.
Tomato demand in Nigeria is put at 2.2 million MT per annum, leaving a gap of 1.4 million MT.
Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization show that Nigeria’s average yield per hectare for the tomato crop, which is 4.2MT, is the lowest when compared with Kenya (23.7MT), South Africa (70.8MT), Ethiopia (6.2MT) and Egypt (41.6MT).
“We need to address the post-harvest losses that are impacting the commercial availability of tomatoes,” Jide Adedeji, founder and chief executive officer at Easysauces Nigeria Limited, said.
Over the past few months, the prices of fresh tomatoes have surged in the country due to the recurrence of Tomato Ebola, coupled with the annual raining season.
The peak season for tomatoes and pepper in Nigeria is between September and February, and the price of the vegetable is usually low during the period.
However, the off-season period is usually April–July because tomatoes do not do well during the rainy season and the price usually peaks during this period.
A survey at Mile 12 Market, Lagos shows that the price of a big basket of fresh tomatoes ranges from N90,000 to N100,000, depending on negotiation, as against N9,500 in January.
A medium size basket is sold between N45,000 and N50,000, indicating that prices have surged by over 847 percent in Lagos markets in six months.
“The logistics cost of moving food items from the North to the South has gone up more than two or three times due to the high cost of fuel and maintaining the trucks,” said Abiodun Olorundenro, operations manager of Aquashoots Limited.
He added that local farmers that grow tomatoes in the South-West region don’t grow enough due to high cost and difficulty in getting high breed seeds.
“The local and state governments in the region are not investing in agriculture. They need to either subsidise or provide the seeds to the farmers,” he said.
According to Adedeji of Easysauces Nigeria Limited, Tomato prices normally rise during this period but not to this extent.
“One of the reasons for the increase was the shortage of naira which occurred in the first quarter of the year. Most farmers did not have money to buy inputs such as fertilisers to grow tomatoes,” he said.Follow us on social media