The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expressed dismay over the N11.7 billion spent yearly by the government for the importation of processed tomato paste.
Such a colossal sum, according to the CBN, could better be used to grow the commodity locally.
The apex bank said that the simple reason for this ugly trend was largely due to the dysfunctional agricultural value chain system in Nigeria, resulting in about 50 per cent of the tomato produced in the country being lost to lack of preservation, poor marketing distribution and access to markets.
The CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, stated this on Tuesday in a welcome address to a one-day Stakeholders Forum on Partnering to build a competitive tomato industry in Nigeria held in Abuja.
Sanusi, who was represented by the CBN Deputy-Governor, Economic Policy, Dr. Sarah Alade, said that “globally, Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes and second only to Egypt in Africa at 1.51 million metric tonnes valued N87.0 billion, with a cultivated area of 254,430 hectares.”
Sanusi said: “It is worrisome that as at today, Nigeria imports 65,809 tons of processed tomato paste valued at N11.7 billion annually.”
He said that it was on this premise that the CBN intervened with programmes such as the N200 billion Commercial Agricultural Lending —NIRSAL, to support the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).
The initiatives, according to the CBN chief, were implemented to improve access to finance by agri-business operators at single digit interest rate, and as part of commitment towards revolutionising the sector.
He posited that, in building a competitive tomato industry in Nigeria, developing successful and effective partnership among stakeholders had become an essential element.
He explained that the forum was ,therefore, organised to focus on strengthening Nigeria’s tomato industry through partnership.
The CBN Governor charged the forum to forge effective partnerships to address the constraints militating against Nigeria’s full exploitation of the gains of the tomato industry, including poor quality seedlings, low productivity, inadequate infrastructure, lack of effective information and communication flow across the value chain, among others.
Also speaking, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that the Federal Ministry of Finance was ready to work with the CBN and other stakeholders to transform the sector.
The Minister, who was represented by Dr. Ismael Igwe, stated that the Ministry was already collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that farmers were supported to increase tomato production in Nigeria for local consumption and for exports.