The Federal Government of Nigeria has announced her plans to discontinue the importation of tomato paste into the country as from December, 2019. Despite been the largest producer of tomatoes in sub-saharan Africa and 14th largest producer in the world, it’s so unfortunate that Nigeria still imports not less than 189.5 metric tons of tomato paste annually
Between 2015 and 2016, a total of 189,510.11 metric tons of tomato paste was imported into Nigeria. This is equivalent to 1,042,305.68 metric tons of fresh tomatoes. A lot of the tomatoes grown in Nigeria suffer post harvest losses incurred from transporting harvest from the farms in the northern part of the country where they are grown, to the southern markets where they are consumed
Nigeria technology transfer policy hasn’t been right for so long. Why import tomatoes when we have abundant here? Companies exist to make profits. It’s only the Government that can ensure that the profits made are for the sustaining benefits of the home country. Nigeria must move from a consumers’ perspective to that of prosumers’ and producers’. When farmers are complaining of low patronage, the borders are widely to the same items.
The local manufacturing companies in Nigeria, have a lot of challenges to combat with (tax payment, power infrastructure, transportation, limited access to foreign exchange etc). This makes it difficult to compete with long existing foreign brands. Recall that in 2016, Nigeria’s biggest tomato paste plant, Erisco Foods Limited, began the shutting down process of its $150 billion plant. Event like this will continue to take place place, until there’s a concerted effort geared towards incentivising local manufacturing companies. This new measure by the government to prohibit importation of tomato paste, will definitely increase import substitution and enhance the nation’s diversification goal. Local manufacturers like Dangote, Sonia, Olam, will now have an edge over their foreign counterparts. Policies like this should equally be extended to other sectors and subsectors, where Nigeria has the capability to deliver results. It’s only by increasing the local content share of our manufacturing capacity, that the economy can be made vibrant both quantitatively and qualitatively.
It is also equally important that the quantity, quality and price of tomato paste, must be guaranteed. Aside moves against importation, government must introduce incentives that will make companies rapidly respond to the surge in demand. Policies really aren’t enough. They must be backed up with actions that shows real commitment. Else, we are locked in a back-and-forth movement, to again, watch the replay of what happened with rice.