Uche Usim, Kaduna
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele on Monday assured that local tomato farmers and processors will be sufficiently financed under the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to meet local demand and bridge an annual shortfall of more than 1.2 million tonnes valued at about $2.5billion annually, which is met through importation and smuggling.
This is as the Managing Director of Tomato Jos, Miss Mira Mehta, said the company will invest N7 billion within the next five years to scale up its investment in tomato farming and processing.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited located in Kaduna, Emefiele said that the CBN, as far back as June 2015, before the current tomato policy was approved in 2017, had excluded importers of 41 items from accessing foreign exchange at the Nigerian foreign exchange (forex) markets, to import it.
“Pursuant to the above, we introduced the Commodity
Champion model in the first quarter of 2019, to stimulate the production of tomato and strengthen the end-to-end linkages in the value chain from input supplies to the final
consumer. The strategy adopted is largely hinged on the twin approaches of out-grower contractual arrangement in the short to medium term, and backward integration in the medium to long term efforts so far have begun to yield results with the mobilisation and validation of about 140,848 farmers from various Tomato Farmers Associations across 25 States in Nigeria. They are to be financed under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) where they would be linked to proximal processors where applicable, or financed to produce fresh fruits for direct consumption, which constitutes the largest use of tomato in Nigeria.
“We are also partnering with other big players in the tomato value chain like Dangote Tomato Processing Ltd, Sonia Foods, GB Foods (GBF, Vegefresh Company Limited and a host of others. This is with a view to ensuring that Nigeria becomes self-sufficient in tomato, and our processing companies, functioning at full capacity and employing millions of Nigerian youths,” he said.
Emefiele said the CBN was also addressing the challenge of low quantum of production per hectare that results in low yield.
The CBN governor appreciated the management of Tomato Jos and the Kaduna State Governor, Mr Nasir el-Rufai for the robust investment in agriculture.
Earlier in his remarks, the Kaduna State Governor, Mr Nasir el-Rufai said agriculture was one of state’s economic transformation fulcrums, even as he hailed the company for investing in tomato farming and processing.
He said: “We welcome these latest developments and investments. It has impacted positively on communities.
“We welcome investors and processors. We’re the highest producer of maize, sorghum, ginger, and others. We call on investors and processors to come here. We have 46,000 square km of land mostly arable.
“We’re prepared to partner with private investors. We’re friendly, especially when you create jobs and pay taxes.
“More importantly, we thank the CBN. Without CBN, revival of our economy won’t happen. The CBN Governor brought developmental thinking to bear. His interventions make him more than a CBN Governor. He has revived many parts of the Nigerian economy.”
Also speaking at the groundbreaking event, the Managing Director of Tomato Jos, Miss Mira Mehta said about $15 to 20 million would be injected into the Nigerian economy by the company annually.
Mehta who applauded the CBN Governor for his unwavering support in capacity building for agricultural development, said the vision of Tomato Jos is “local production for local consumption.”
She revealed that that over N1.5 billion has been invested in the Tomato Jos farms so far, making it the largest Tomato farm business investment in Kaduna State.