“Nigeria is the largest producer of pineapples in Africa, producing 903,000 metric tonnes, South Africa produces about 100,000, but we import pineapple juice from South Africa. Nigeria is the largest producer of mangoes, 620,000 metric tonnes, South Africa produces about 50,000, but we import the juice from there. We produce 1.5 million metric tonnes of tomatoes making us the largest producers of tomatoes in African yet we are importing tomatoes paste from China,” says Sunny Ochonu, former permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
This is ironic! Isn’t it? Doubtlessly, lack of agricultural processing facilities is central to Nigeria’s consistent failure to attain self-sufficiency in food production, achieve food security and become exporter of agricultural products, even though the country is one of the most endowed nations in the world in terms of rich and vast arable lands and high value agricultural products.
The fact that Nigeria is still not a major exporter of agricultural products is obviously not as a result of its lack of capacity to produce enough for local consumption and surpluses for export; instead, is because most of the products, particularly perishable crops get damaged during pre- and post-harvests, thanks to a combination of crude farming techniques, pests and diseases as well as lack of storage and processing facilities.
For example, Nigeria is Africa’s largest importer of tomatoes from countries like China and India, however, the country’s annual tomato production is valued at 1.8 million tonnes – up to 75% of which is wasted largely during post-harvest thus the local supply is put at 800,000 tons – against the country’s tomatoes annual need of 2.2million tons.
This is even as in countries like China and India from where tomato is majorly imported into Nigeria there is only one tomato planting season in a year, whereas in Nigeria there are two tomato planting seasons, every year. Sadly, most of the tomato being imported into Nigeria from India and China is either substandard or even out rightly fake, which speaks to the health implications of such tomatoes.
This is to say by ensuring that our 1.8 million tonnes of locally produced tomatoes are properly stored and processed we will be saving our precious foreign exchange valued at $1 billion, every year.
Achieving self-sufficiency in agricultural production in Nigeria will entail public private partnership and investment across the agribusiness value chain: production, processing and marketing. The government must therefore ensure subsidy support to small and medium farmers of various commodities by subsidizing quality seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, this will help boost production and ensure high quality yield.
Moreover, the farmers need to be organized into clusters and be linked up with reliable marketing agents who will buy their products at regulated prices and supply processing companies. On the other hand, the government must come up with measures targeted at creating an enabling environment for local agricultural processing companies to evolve and flourish.
Local agro-processing companies like Erisco Foods, which is the largest indigenous tomato processing company in Nigeria; Dansa Foods as well as L & Z Integrated Farms are shining examples of local agro-processing companies adding value to a wide range agricultural products in Nigeria. The government must encourage the growth of more and more indigenous processing companies across the various commodities, particularly the perishable ones.
Compiled by Moving Image Limited
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