• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s N180bn tomato harvests depend on erratic climate

tomatoes

Annual harvests of tomatoes in Nigeria worth about N180 billion survives mainly on rain-fed agriculture which has become very erratic due to climate change, creating need for massive investments in irrigation.

This N180 billion estimate is based on the country’s annual production of about 1.8million metric tons according to the former Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in 2014 and price of N5, 000 per 50kg basket which is the most regular price tomato is sold when there is no scarcity.

But as a result of climate change, every year since about 10 years ago, the prices of tomatoes skyrocket around April to July due to delayed or early rains, and/or flooding. This year, tomato price increased astronomically by almost 1,000 percent from N3, 000 to N5, 000 per 50kg basket around March/April to N30, 000 to N38, 000 in June/early July. The problem this year however also included lingering fuel scarcity in Nigeria and pest/disease outbreak.

But as predicted by industry watchers, nature smiled again – tomatoes harvested mainly in the Southwest started flooding the market stabilising prices. Supply is expected to further increase as tomatoes harvested in the north would also be available by November/ December.

Abiodun Oyelekan, head, Lagos Fadama apex body told BusinessDay at the peak of the scarcity in June, “Tomatoes grown in the Southwest will be available for sale in the market by August ending and this will reduce the prices significantly.” But some other industry watchers predicted then that the remarkable fall in prices would start by July ending if there were sunshine days allowing the tomatoes to ripen. This has occurred because the August break in rainfall needed for the tomatoes to ripen started in July.

Usman Baba, financial secretary, financial secretary, Arewa Perishable Foodstuffs Market Association, Mile 12 Market has also predicted, “The current tomato scarcity will end finally by November/December this year when tomatoes grown in the north will be in abundant supply. But the prices will not return to N5,000 which was the price it was sold early this year (first quarter). The 50kg basket will most likely be sold for N7,000 by then (fourth quarter).”

Many industry watchers have however noted that Nigeria with an annual demand of 2.3 million metric tons of tomatoes, and yearly production of 1.8million metric tons which still falls short of demand, cannot continue to depend on favourable climate. Moreover, according to United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) statistics, tomato alone constitutes 18percent of all vegetables consumed by Nigerians.

Highlighting possible solutions, Johnson Chukwu, managing director, Cowry Assets urged a stimulation in private agricultural investments which includes massive irrigation facilities through reduction in the cost of funds to such productive sectors.

Currently, the federal government’s annual dry season farming scheme which provides funds for crop production is deployed only in the northern states during the dry season in the north while states in the south depend mainly on rain-fed agriculture. But in recent years climate change is making these hitherto smooth farming operations a yearly headache for farmers all over the country especially in the South.

Afioluwa Mogaji, veteran farmer and chief executive, X-ray Farm Consulting said, “If there had also been funding for massive irrigation in the south, then whenever rains are delayed in April which is the case in recent years, farmers in the South would still commence planting and we would not have this scarcity, not only of tomatoes but other crops such as maize.”

As a result of this tomato shortage in tomato supply, Nigeria expends an annual import bill of N16 billion on tomato pastes which expectedly would reduce very soon as a result of the CBN’s new policy on withholding forex for such imports.

OLUYINKA ALAWODE