• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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How seasonal farming, R&D constrain tomato production

How seasonal farming, R&D constrain tomato production

Nigeria’s inability to grow tomatoes all year and carry out extensive research and development are major constraints to the nation’s tomato production.

Nigeria could save millions of dollars spent on the importation of fresh tomatoes from neighbouring countries and tomato paste from Asia, create jobs for its teeming youths and reduce pressure on the naira if the country starts growing tomatoes all year round.

“We need to start growing tomatoes and every agricultural product all year round. Farmers need adequate finance to do this,” said Sani Danladi, secretary-general of the National Tomato Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria.

Danladi said the country has failed to tackle the recurring pest infestation that has continued to reduce the production of fresh vegetables and lead to losses for farmers.

According to him, more than 300 hectares were destroyed by the Tuta Absoluta invasion in May and over 500 farmers were affected in key growing states.

The Nigerian market for vegetables is estimated to grow by more than 20 percent this year owing to the high population growth rate, and tomato alone is expected to account for 15 percent, according to experts.

“We need to start farming tomatoes all year round like South Africa and other countries where you get fresh tomatoes at affordable prices irrespective of the season,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer at X-Ray Consulting.

“For this to happen, we must make the necessary investments in research to develop water-resistant and improved tomato seed varieties for farmers and make them readily available,” Mogaji said.

According to him, the research institute mandated for tomatoes must develop technologies that will tackle the Tuta Absoluta problem and other pest issues limiting productivity.

He also noted that the issue of post-harvest losses need to be addressed as the country lost more than half of its yearly tomato production to it.

Each year, millions of tonnes of tomatoes are harvested in Nigeria but a good number of them go down the drain, due to poor market access and poor storage facilities, among others.

Most of the tomatoes that are good for processing in the country are grown mostly in the northern region, with traders buying and conveying them to various parts of the country, especially areas with high consumption.

“Improved seed varieties must be developed for tomato growers in the South-West. The tomato grown there is of lower quality and has so much water in it and cannot be crushed for puree,” Mogaji said.

Read also: FG, development partner to understudy Lagos food market

In a May interview with BusinessDay, Abiola Oladigbolu, head of the National Horticultural Research Institute Biopesticide Centre, said the institute has developed a sustainable environmentally friendly integrated management packages that include biopesticides Lyptol and Raktin to help farmers tackle the Tuta pest.

According to him, farmers are supposed to develop management practices as preventive measures for the Tuta pest but they have failed to do so, which is causing the continuous outbreak.

“It will keep recurring yearly if our farmers refuse to do the needful regarding management practices. We have educated them on it and have developed management practices and some products,” he said.

He added that the institute has been constantly working with development partners to develop improved seed varieties for farmers.