Uche Usim, Kaduna
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbe, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on Monday, commissioned the N2 billion Gino Tomatoes ultramodern processing factory in Kaduna State, with a declaration that Nigeria’s agriculture revolution and economic diversification are now fully on stream.
The factory, established for tomato paste production, sits atop 100 hectares space, with a farming area of about 30 hectares.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, Emefiele hinted of plans to ban milk importation to save the foreign exchange therein by replicacting the Gino Tomatoes success strategy in milk production.
According to him, the days of importing food items that can be produced locally are numbered, as Nigeria has no business importing them judging by its vast arable lands and friendly weather.
He said: “We must thank Mr. President for telling all of us that it is high time we produced what we eat and eat what we produce. From planting to harvesting of tomatoes is between 60-90 days. Our soil is good, our climate is good, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be doing what we are doing here today.
“I don’t even know how we have done this in the past, importing these tomatoes. We’ve no option than to ban this (tomatoes). There are other products as well. I keep talking about milk, for instance. Milk is being imported into the country for more than 60 years, even before I was born. And I’ve told WAMCO that we need to come back. What do we need to produce milk, is it not to fatten the cows, give them the necessary nutrients and water and it’ll produce more milk? And yet they said milk cannot be produced in Nigeria. We will confront it. They too should get ready to join in this train,” Emefiele said.
The CBN Governor said the apex bank was working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Trade and Investment to aggressively and vigorously pursue the objective of diversifying the structure of the Nigerian economy.
“My selfish interest here is that up till very recently, we still were importing tomatoes into the country, whereas we could save the foreign exchange. And this time, we’re saving the foreign exchange. We thank Gino Tomatoes for coming onboard. When they asked for a period of five years, I said no, that a period of planting and harvesting is not more than two years and that we are ready to fund you to bring in the equipment. And that we’re ready to fund you in local currency if you need to acquire land. I think we must also thank the Kaduna State government for supporting this company because I understand they will be giving them thousands of hectares of land. This is just like a test ground.
“By the time we move to the permanent site, I’m sure we would all have stories to tell about the good things of Nigeria. Many more will happen. Whether we like it or not, as long as we’re producing this for our consumption and possibly for export, there’s no choice other than to ban this.”