Following the proposed ban of importation of tomato paste into Nigeria, many questions are begging for answers in the mind of stakeholders operating in the tomato value chain.
Nigeria remains the largest importer of tomato with over $360 million import bill on tomato paste and sauce due to the demand for tomatoes which far outweighs the supply. According to Food Business Africa, he national demand for fresh tomatoes in Nigeria is 3.5 million metric tons, while local farmers that grow this commodity can only produce 1.8 million metric tons. There is thus a 50% production shortfall which needs to be met.
To meet the demand and supply challenges of the tomato vegetable by Nigerians after the implementation of the ban, every stakeholder in the Nigeria tomato value chain would need to adopt a measure that will make tomatoes available not only in correct quantities but also in the right quality, all year round.
Without forgetting that tomato can be grown both as an annual, and also as a perrenial crop, it is worth knowing that tomotoes grown as annuals in Nigeria are planted outdoor on the field, and produce fruit majorly during the dry season. However, tomato grown as perennials have an all year round fruit production which makes it an ideal production practice that can close the impending tomato supply gap. For tomatoes to grow this way, greenhouse farming is the best option! This is so because all plant growth factors can be controlled and maintained at optimum level all year round in greenhouses. It is also possible for crops to mature in a lesser period than when cultivated in open field. In Kenya for example, tomatoes cultivated in greenhouses matured in two months as against a minimum of three months for those in open field. In addition, the tomatoes produced under greenhouses have a shelf-life of 21 days compared with 14 days for those grown in the open. This is a major advantage in the area of increased production and postharvest losses reduction because about 45% of the tomatoes produced locally in Nigeria is wasted due to low shelf life.
introduction of greenhouse farming for production of tomatoes will ensure that the popular vegetable will not only become available throughout the year at affordable prices and increase the incomes of rural households, but that it will yield sufficient quantity to meet local demand and excess for export.
Of course even without probing, it is obvious that the cost implications of greenhouse farming is a challenge to many tomato farmers. However, the cost implications vary depending on whether the farmer choses to import the structure or construct it locally.
In order to overcome this financial challenge, it is imperative that government and private sectors provides an inclusive financial services for farmers for infrastructural developments. Also farmers through commodity cooperatives can come together to crowdfund the much needed infrastructures.
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