Walter Ukaegbu, Abuja,
Minister of State for Industries, Trade and Investment and the Supervising Minister, Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, has praised the Tomato Association of Nigeria (TAN) for reducing losses from 40 per cent to 10 per cent just as its President, Mr. Abdullahi Ringim, said they imported 240 metric tonnes of the product worth $150 million.
The Minister and Ringim stated these recently in Abuja while reviewing the implementation of Tomato Sector Policy.
Abubakar, who chaired the meeting comprising stakeholders from various tomato companies including Erisco Foods Limited, Dangote Tomato Factory, Savanah International Farming Limited, among others, harped on the need to improve production and to meet the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with a view to addressing the problem of smuggling across the borders.
The TAN President, who is also the Managing Director of Savannah International Farming Limited, told the Minister that their losses have been reduced from 40 per cent to 10 per cent but listed challenges in the delivery of the product from one city to another.
He also explained that electricity has improved from 2000 megawatts (mw) to 3000mw, but pleaded with government to assist in stopping various brands of the product from coming in through the borders.
General Manager, Erisco Foods Limited, Mr. Tokunbo Agbede, lamented that cheaper tomato products of better quality, most times, find their way into the Nigerian market thereby saturating the market with several brands, which has badly affected their fortunes.
On finance, he disclosed that their members who seek loans are given tall orders or difficult terms, pleading that they should be given loanable funds at good rate.
Speaking on their challenges, the Managing Director of Dangote Tomato Factory, Mr. L. Kaite, reminded the Minister of the zero duty from the government on tomato products but frowned at the issue of implementation, stating that a company has to apply to the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance and Customs for approval.
Several other stakeholders spoke on the issue of water and construction of dams, and they called for a national conference on tomato production as was done for rice.
The representative from the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) reminded the various stakeholders on quality guideline for planting and harvesting, stressing that they do not just say they want water but the type of water they want.
In the same vein, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) representative said the organisation always ensures that products are NAFDAC compliant.