From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
To reduce the number of tomatoes imported into the country, the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) has completed the training of over 150 farmers in the Ndokwa Federal Constituency of Delta State.
The capacity building workshop which was organised in partnership with the member representing Ndokwa Federal Constituency, Ossai Nicholas Ossai, was aimed to equip trainees with skills on how to improve tomato production.
Apart from tomatoes, the training also covered plantain sucker production to increase plantain production in Nigeria.
Nigeria presently produces 2.3 million metric tonnes, resulting in a deficit of 700,000 metric tonnes of the national demand for tomatoes which is presently three million metric tonnes.
In an attempt to bridge this deficit, the country imports an average of 150,000 metric tons of tomato paste concentrate annually, valued at about $170 million.
Addressing participants at the training, Acting Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of NIHORT, Dr Ephraim Nwanguma, said though Nigeria is the second highest producer of tomato in Africa, efforts to bridge the demand deficit has made the country the third-largest importer of tomato paste in the continent.
Nwanguma said to benefit maximally from the commodity, there should be adequate ‘capacity building and training on improved production practices such as nursery management, field management, pest and disease control, and harvesting will go a long way in improving the contribution of the commodities to food and nutritional security and economic empowerment.’
He said Nigeria has a comparative advantage in plantain production and is one of the major producers of plantain in the world with a figure of 3,182,872 tonnes as of 2019.
Nwanguma however said the slow rate of sucker multiplication was a major constraint to improving production.
‘Dependence on natural regeneration of plantlets for the supply of planting materials has been observed to be inadequate and encourages infection by fungi, nematodes, and weevils. To lessen the effect of these biotic agents, capacity building on rapid production of clean planting materials becomes imperative,’ he added.