Recently, the Federal Government said that it was ready to ban importation of tomato paste into the country to pave the way for the development of the local market. Taiwo Hassan examines its pros and cons
Following series of tomato policy measures embarked upon by the Federal Government in the past to ensure that the country achieves sustainable tomato processing in Nigeria as well as revitalize the tomato industry, the country has finally taken the bull by the horn by moving to stop the importation of tomato paste into the country this year.
Indeed, the move to ban tomato paste import would be a cheering news for local tomato processing firms that had been groaning over their multi-billion Naira investments, which had remained uncompetitive.
Sadly, the Federal Government, had in August 2017, announced the approval of new tomato policy designed to achieve sustainable tomato processing in Nigeria, but the implementation of the new tariff regime did not stem the huge tomato paste importation into the country. This made members of the organized private sector (OPS) and local operators to be pessimistic about the Federal Government’s blue print on new tomato policy that was meant for development of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and large companies who needed to invest in the tomato industry given its potential such as job and wealth creation in rural areas.
Perhaps implementation of the new tomato policy in the sector had been slow, prompting the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board to fine tune ways to solve the challenges in the comatose sector and protect local manufacturing companies.
Floating of monitoring team
However, last year, following series of insinuations and petitions on what is the state of the implementation of the country’s new tomato policy, the Federal Government inaugurated a monitoring team on implementation of its tomato policy to ascertain if policy was working effectively in the sector.
Speaking at the inauguration, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, who inaugurated the tomato monitoring team said, government was working round the clock to make sure that the approved new regime on tomato was a success after all.
“It is, therefore, important to put in place a tomato monitoring team to oversee the implementation of the policy,” she said.
“The membership of the monitoring team is made up of public and private sector and the processors.”
Abubakar noted that the ministry had been partnering other Ministries, Departments and Agencies to address challenges that could hinder the actualisation of the objectives.
The monitoring team was made up of the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment; Finance; Agriculture; Raw Materials Research and Development Council; Nigeria Customs Service; Central Bank of Nigeria; National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC); National Research Institute For Chemical Technology (NARICT) and private sector players.
Among the private sector players were the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dangote Tomato Processing Limited, Erisco Food Industries Limited, Savannah Integrated Farms, GB Food, Tomato Jos and Springfield Tomato Processing Companies.
The team’s terms of reference include monitoring the implementation of the policy and importation of tomato products and derivatives.
FG’s tomato paste ban
After checks and balances to ensure sustainable implementation of the new tomato policy in the sector, succor came for local operators and others eyeing the tomato paste processing industry following the Federal Government’s announcement last week, that it would place a ban on the importation of tomato paste before the end of 2019.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, dropped this hint during a tour of the Dangote Tomato Processing Plant in Kadawa, Kano State last week.
Ogbeh had stated that the ban would encourage massive tomato production in the country, in line with the current administration fulfillment of the country’s tomato policy.
According to him, government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Agriculture, had set aside N250 billion to disburse as soft loans to tomato farmers as part of the Anchor Borrower scheme to aggressively develop the tomato industry.
“The Federal Government has set aside N250 billion through the CBN and BoA to disburse as soft loans to tomato farmers as part of the Anchor Borrower scheme,” the minister had said.
“Federal government will continue to encourage Dangote agro-farms and the farmers to grow massive tomatoes in Nigeria and with this kind of outfit; farmers will earn more with better seedlings from the Dangote greenhouse and get better results.”
However, the agric minister said, according to the report, about $22 billion is spent on tomato paste importation annually into Nigeria directly or indirectly through various means, which had monumental effects on the country’s fragile economy.
Also speaking in the same vein, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had weighed in his support for leading local operators- Dangote Group of Industries, Erisco Foods Limited, Savannah Integrated Farms, that they had the capacity to reduce tomato paste importation by 80 per cent.
Osinbajo explained that the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari was concerned about the spate of events in the tomato industry, adding that all eyes are on the country’s leading tomato industries to fully fill the gap in reducing the sudden rise in tomato paste importation into the country.
According to him, it was regrettable that the country spent huge foreign exchange in the region of $1 billion to import tomato paste from China, India and the United States of America, spending over $25 billion on food imports annually into the country.
However, following the expected ban of tomato paste importation by the Federal Government and the coming on board of Dangote and other tomato processing plants, Nigeria is on the verge of becoming a tomato paste net exporter soon.
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