• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Food processors invest N23.8bn in Nigeria to cut import bill

Gbfoods boosts Nigeria’s economy with N20bn tomato processing factory

Amid sluggish growth and high cost of doing business, Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria has attracted N23.8 billion in investments from food processors that will help curb its reliance on imports.

GB Foods recently opened a N20 billion state-of-the-art tomato processing plant in Kebbi State to reduce the importation of tomato paste in the country.

The farm and factory, spanning 1,500 hectares of land, boasts a 620-metric-tonnes-per-day processing plant and generates 2,000 jobs, which GB Foods plans to double in the next expansion phase.

This means the GB Foods tomato plant can process 226,300 metric tonnes (MT) of tomatoes each year. Africa’s biggest economy produces 1.5 million MT of tomato per annum, with 0.7 million MT post-harvest loss.

Tomato demand in Nigeria is put at 2.2 million MT per annum, leaving a gap of 700,000MT, official data say.

GB Food’s plant will ensure that at least 226,300 tonnes are removed annually from the total import bill. An expansion of its capacity will ensure that tomato paste importation into Nigeria crashes further.

Nigeria is the 13th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and the second after Egypt in Africa, yet the country is still unable to meet local demand because about 50 percent of tomato produce is wasted due to a lack of storage facilities.

“During the 2022-23 seasons, GB Foods’ farm and factory in Kebbi played a pivotal role in generating 75 percent of the total tomato concentrate produced in Nigeria,” Vincent Egbe, GB Foods Nigeria’s CEO, said during the opening.

“Despite this significant contribution, the demand still exceeds the supply, highlighting the need for further expansion and advancement in the sector,” Egbe added.

Experts say the investment by GB Foods will close the demand-supply gap in the industry as well as the N16 billion annual import bill.

Idris Isa, a tomato farmer in Kaduna, confirmed the availability of fresh tomatoes in the north-western states of Nigeria and stressed that the recently commissioned tomato plant could reduce the importation of tomato paste in the country while raising jobs in the region.

Also, ReelFruit commissioned a $2.5 million (N3.8 billion using N1,500/dollar exchange rate) dried fruit processing factory last month in Ogun State. The plant can process 800MT.

Affiong Williams, CEO of ReelFruit, said the processing plant would boost agriculture in the country, empowering farmers and curbing increasing post-harvest losses.

“We are proud to have commissioned the largest dried fruit factory in Nigeria, which serves as a testament to my long-term unwavering belief in Nigeria’s agricultural and manufacturing opportunity.”

Nigeria has various ranges of fruits such as oranges, guava, pineapples, avocado, pears, and pawpaw, among others.

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

Most of the fruits in the country are grown in the middle belt region, with traders buying and conveying them to various parts of the country, especially areas with high consumption.

Nigeria is currently the ninth producer of citrus fruits and mango production globally, with 3.4 million MT and 850,000MT respectively, according to data from the Food and Agricultural Organization.

Due to the high demand for juice in the country, juice makers in Nigeria go to the extent of importing juice concentrate to meet demand. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria estimates that Nigeria imports N165 billion worth of fruit juice yearly.

Experts say the investment by ReelFruit will help close the demand-supply gap and ensure Nigerians consume healthier dried fruits.