Submitted by Zanau Hassan – An Agricultural Production Consultant Based in Abuja.
As Nigeria currently faces the tomato crisis in the major growing areas of the northwest, evident by pest infestation of Tuta Absoluta, there has been a hike in prices of fresh tomato across markets within the country.
There also comes an immense opportunity for Taraba state to relaunch herself as a major tomato growing state. Going by the prevailing economic hardship acing, there also comes an opportunity for other states to take advantage and launch themselves into taking advantage of the economic situation.
Tomato is a high value crop that has the capacity for high income generation and also has more income prospects than cereal crops like maize and rice. Also tomato is a major food ingredient in most Nigerian menus.
As the Federal government is banning importation of tomato paste, it is imperative for states with the potential for tomato production to activate such potentials to reality.
Taraba state has every potential to become a major leader in tomato production in the country.
Also, Taraba state is host to the longest stretch of the river Benue with other major tributary rivers such as river Taraba and Donga as well as other water bodies scattered across the state. These rivers have water flowing all year round even without damming the water.
With the abundance of water resources, also comes the abundance of arable land that can support tomato production. In the past, there was the Lau Tomato Company which has now become moribund with no activity anymore.
It functioned during the days of Gongola state.
Taraba state is not traditionally a tomato growing state but it has the potential of becoming a leader in tomato production in the country. It also means that our farmers will need to acquire additional skills in the science of modern tomato production practices.
In accessing the areas for these activities in the state, you will discover that most of the irrigation potential areas are lying fallow during the dry season. Locations like Tella, Gindindoruwa, Bantaje, Donga, Namnai, Jalingo, Lau, Ibi, Karim Lamido, Mutum Biyu, Sansani Gassol, Bali, Suntai, and many other communities with great potentials for irrigation and tomato production are highly unutilised.
Taraba can relaunch herself as a leader in tomato production if the right steps are taken and the right goals set. Taraba state has the requisite human resource (farmers with a vibrant youthful population) as well as the natural resources (water and land) to make this dream a reality.
To achieve this, the following steps needs to be taken which includes:
- Relaunch a Taraba Tomato Campaign.
- Identify tomato production areas in the state.
- Link up the growing areas with roads and other basic farm infrastructure such as irrigation facilities and equipments, storage facilities etc.
- Training of farmers and all value chain actors involved in the tomato production from start to finish.
- Develop a public private sector arrangement with development Partners in the agricultural space to help develop the Taraba’s Tomato dream.
- Identifying tomato varieties that is adaptive to the areas, resistant to pest and diseases.
- Introducing the greenhouse tomato production concept and the use of drip irrigation in small and large scale tomato production.
- Supporting small scale tomato paste processing will also go a long way in ensuring that glut is minimized.
Government must be able to set goals for the people of the state to achieve which includes:
- To ensure that within the next 2 years, the state should be able to deploy 100,000 hectares to tomato production alone. These 100,000 hectares shall be cultivated by farmers within the state who shall be adequately trained in modern production practices.
- To set a target of achieving an average of 30 metric tons of freshly harvested tomato within the borders of the states. This will come with adequate supply of the right seeds and other inputs to farmers as well as making the land available.
- To develop an out-grower scheme for tomato growers which will make input financing much easier. The CBN Anchor Borrower Scheme is a window of opportunity for the state to tap into moving forward after showing capacity in tomato production.
As these goals are being achieved gradually, the state government can start a tomato processing factory in a PPP arrangement that will allow the government to own certain shares.
Taraba state can in the future become a hub for tomato production as well as have the requisite manpower needed in the country for tomato production. Taraba can produce experts in greenhouse tomato production if only the state can achieve the set goals.
I believe that sometimes you don’t always need money to start an idea only if the state government can show leadership by producing a roadmap for implementation and engaging the redundant staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and her agencies to begin. For a start the government will have to commit financial resources to kick-start the process and then subsequently allow the private sector take full charge.
Doing the numbers for 100,000 hectares at an average yield of 30,000kg per hectare.
- 100,000 hectares x 30,000Kg = 3,000,000,000Kg of fresh tomato.
- Selling at N100/kg will bring in N300 billion income into the state. Despite the losses that will be incurred, it still remains a very profitable venture.
Also bearing in mind that a kilogram of tomato sells for more than N100 in most part of the year.
Achieving a 300,000 metric tons of tomato from Taraba state alone will translate into a lot of jobs that will be created from the farm activities to pre-farm and post farm activities. It will also mean that there will be a great opportunity for truck owners, drivers, loaders etc. The opportunity for jobs are enormous.
These will lead to increased influx of traders who will troop into the state for tomato business and in turn increase more revenue earnings for the government.