Tomato is an important vegetable crop in Nigeria. It is widely grown for home consumption and for sale. Its demand is high both for domestic use and markets.
However, the lack of good variety seeds to buy is a threat to tomato farming and to the economy. This results in extremely poor yields, thereby making it unattractive for processors to purchase.
To address this problem, a project aimed at producing more pest resistance, high yielding tomato that would last for many days on the shelf is on.
The project is a colloboration between Olam Nigeria and the World Vegetable Centre, a globally renowned research institute for the supply of 18 varieties of seeds.
To support the government’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in tomato production and processing, Olam Nigeria embarked on a pilot farming project to boost production through improved seeds.
Executing the project through its subsidiary, Caraway Africa Nigeria Ltd, Olam Nigeria acquired 20 hectares of land for this purpose and set up farms in Karfi, Kano State, as well as Masama and Guri, both located in Jigawa State. The farms are solely dedicated to the production of tomatoes.
While the tomatoes were transplanted in October last year, harvest began in February this year.
Olam Nigeria’s Vice President in charge of Farming Initiatives, Reji George, said preliminary results point to a bountiful harvest.
He stated that each of the farms was on course to produce 30 metrics tonnes of tomato per hectare, as against the 7.5 metric tonnes per hectare which is Nigeria’s average yield for tomato.
Reji added that the commercial pilot farming initiative, which Olam Nigeria is embarking upon through Caraway Africa Nigeria, was a precursor to a backward integration project for tomato paste production which will commence in March 2021.
He said Olam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Vegetable Centre, for the supply of 18 varieties of seeds, exclusively for Caraway Africa Nigeria.
George added: “We have also decided to go for an additional eight varieties of hybrid tomato seeds already existing in Nigeria, which have a higher yield potential, but which the farmers are not using because of the cost. We have selected tomato seed varieties, which produce fresh tomatoes as well as the variants which are good for tomato processing.”
The tomatoes which are being currently harvested at the Caraway Africa Nigeria, Kano and Jigawa farms, are considered to be of higher quality than what is currently being produced by other farmers in terms of size, quality and weight.
The tomatoes are products of the Nigerian hybrid seeds and the World Vegetable Centre seeds which were planted on a trial basis.
The owner of Dogara Farms, Alhaji Uba Idris Dogara, who has been farming for 35 years, attested to the quality of the recently harvested tomatoes.
He said: “I’m an old-time tomato farmer, but the method Olam brought to this place is looking better than the previous method we were using.
“I have seen a lot of changes in their yields than what we have been getting before. There is a big improvement. This method is better than what we have seen.”
The Farm Manager,Masama Farm, Emmanuel Agbo, and Farm Manager, Abur Farm, Mohammed Saulawa, both owned by Olam Nigeria and located in Jigawa State, said the quality of the tomatoes have attracted farmers who have visited their farms, curious to know about the farming methods that have produced such yields.