Two years after the approval of the Federal Government’s Tomato Policy Guidelines, findings show that it is yet to take effect, as farmers are yet to take advantage of it.
Approved in March 2017, the policy was to become effective on May 7, 2017 and to be implemented by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Federal Ministry of Finance; Federal Ministry of Water Resources; Central Bank of Nigeria; Bank of Industry; and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
It was supposed to be one of government’s strategic tools for stimulating the agro-allied industry, whose primary aims include –increasing local production of fresh tomatoes; increasing local production of tomato concentrates and reducing post-harvest losses.
Other highlights of the policy include; increase in tariff on tomato concentrate to 50 per cent and introduction of additional levy of $1,500 per metric ton; classification of greenhouse equipment as agricultural equipment, in order to attract 0 per dent import duty; stoppage of importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate put up for retail sale; stoppage of the importation of tomatoes preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid; and inclusion of tomato production, processing in the list of industries eligible for investment incentives administered by the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
However, the implementation of this policy is being delayed, making it difficult to cut down importation from countries like China, Italy and others, making the utilisation of the already established processing plants in the country impossible, to the detriment of farmers and other stakeholders in the industry.
Currently, based on investigations, importation of tomato is allegedly aided by government agencies, who have refused to bring to justice importers and marketers of unhealthy tomato pastes, as revealed by Nigerian’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN). This has led to shutdown of some tomato processing factories.
According to the Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), farmers are facing losses of over 40 to 45 per cent of their total yearly production, with about 700,000mt of the produce lost. The Guardian learnt that in 2018 alone, tomato farmers lost over $10b.
Industry analysts and stakeholders are raising concern as to why NAFDAC, which publicly declared that imported tomato pastes are only 28 per cent tomatoes and the rest additives and chemicals, has failed to confiscate those produce that are coming to the country on daily basis, which they considered unfit for human consumption.
Last year, National Secretary of TOGAN, Mallam Sani Danladi Yadakwari, indicted officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and NAFDAC for frustrating government’s effort to protect farmers through the policy.He said: “Some of the indigenous factories that off-take tomatoes from farmers have shutdown because of lack of buyers of their concentrates. These packers would rather import from China and other countries without duty or smuggle them through Republic of Benin.
“Unfortunately when we approached the Customs officials regarding the motive behind the non-implementation of the policy, we were told that between the date the policy was approved and the date they were given the gazette of the policy for implementation, it had exceeded the stipulated time of 90 days, hence they couldn’t implement it as it had expired.”
Managing Director, Dangote Tomato Processing Factory, Kano, Abdulkarim Kaita, confirmed to The Guardian that since the policy was formulated, Customs officials have not collected at least $1 into the levy account, a development that has boost importation of tomato paste, and enhanced tomato-packaging companies.
According to him, the non-implementation of the policy is due to lack of will power on the part of government. “From our own perspective, what we expect from government is to declare a total ban on importation of tomato, like it was done with rice. That is what will ginger tomato farmers to cultivate more and more people will go into farming to fill the gap.
“In the next one or two years, Nigeria will be self-sufficient in tomato production. Currently, we are the second largest producer of the commodity in Africa, but farmers are still losing 45 per cent of their production, because the borders are porous and Customs are making brisk money from importation, but unless total ban is declared, it will be business as usual.”
Continuing, Kaita said if there are more processing factories in the country, farmers will not incur such huge losses, because they’ll have where to take their tomatoes to. “Dangote tomato factory is the only tomato industry operating currently in the country. The importers do not want to invest in processing, they’ll rather import, that is the challenge we are facing, if government declares total ban, it will put a permanent end to importation.
“Government has done its best with the formulation of the policy, but since the policy is not working, they need to look at what needs to be put in place to make it work, because Nigeria has no business in importing tomato, we have the land, we have the resources, we have water, and we have the people. What government needs to do is to provide enabling environment for investors to come in. When the policy on rice was implemented, a lot of processing companies sprang up overnight and we are now enjoying it. If this policy is implemented, in the next two years we’ll be exporting tomato to other countries,” Kaita said.
The former Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)’s agriculture sector, Prince Wale Oyekoya, who described the development as disappointing, said the policy was a mere political statement, which is only on paper.
He said: “The problem is not really the farmers, but government. The ministry of agriculture should be upright to ensure the implementation of every government policy as it concerns the ban on tomato importation. If the farmers without government’s support cleared their lands, plant, and nurture their tomato plantations, but found themselves incapacitated to appropriately store, process, package and market this raw farm produce, this is where government needs to come in.
“However, the ministry of agriculture has completely failed to appropriately implement a passed policy; failed to ensure proper monitoring of illegal importation and smuggling of substandard products by working hand-in-hand with the agencies concerned; and failed to provide storage facilities that will elongate the shelf life of tomato, causing more wastage than supply.”
Oyekoya, who is the Managing Director/CEO of Bama Farms, said though government has good intentions for the sector, it is not completely convinced that the sector could replace and bring more wealth to the nation than the oil industry.
“If the theory of the revolutionised economy is to be treated indeed, then government should focus more on agriculture and stop sabotaging their own policies through negligence and act of fund mismanagement. It is high time government restructured the sector.
“Most losses incurred by farmers come from pest infestation, storage facilities, dysfunctional value chain system, and poor roads network; among others. Farmers are meant to enjoy after harvest as tomato business is very lucrative, but poor management system such as poor farm inputs, fertilisers, pest control, and storage facilities are the challenges faced by most farmers with no help from the government. Government intervention programmes in terms of improved research institutes, funding, and implementation of appropriate policy is the simple way out,” he said.
Source: The Guardian