Timing Of FG’s Tomato Policy Is Wrong – Okolie
A member of the Association of Stakeholders in Edible Products in Nigeria, Mr Okey Okolie, has disagreed with the Federal Government’s Tomato Policy, saying that the timing is wrong.
The Federal Government set up the Policy, to ban the importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate, put up for retail sale.
Mr Okolie, who is a member of the group involved in retail packaging, noted that “the policy is a commendable policy and we don’t have any problem whatsoever with it, except the timing – The timing of the policy is what is wrong.”
Explaining further about the tomato sector, he said: “If you are looking at the tomato sector and what’s on ground, there is a need to cover up or to provide for the lacuna in the sector and the timing creates a problem where it will set the sector backward.
“You have a group of farmers that produce tomato. After that, you have transportation from the farms to the next link in the chain, which should be processing and packaging. After that, you go to transportation, again to distributors and after distribution, it would be marketing – From marketing to the kitchen table. The policy comes in, in the middle from farming to the table.”
Mr Okolie stressed that there is a Lacunar in Nigeria in the sector of tomato where the processing and packaging is missing.
“There are insufficient companies or group of companies that produce concentrate tomato in concentrate form.”
He also pointed out the fact that Nigeria has a lot of arable land and ranks 16 in the world record of highest producers of tomato. This, however, according to him, is not being properly leveraged upon.
Furthermore, he explained that without adequate resources like fertilisers, seedlings and technology inputs, the excess which is produced in raw form, eventually goes to waste.
He was therefore of the opinion that the policy should have been set back, to give the sector a space of two to five years for a backward integration which would allow it to catch up.
“Tomatoes are being produced but not being preserved. We don’t have cold rooms. We don’t have enough or even packaging to process the tomato for future use, so all the tomatoes that are being produced in a season end up in that season – either eaten or lost.”
Okolie, however, hinted that the group has started the process of backward integration by acquiring land for the industry, as well as setting up negotiation for equipment.