By Adedapo Adesanya
After reopening in March following a three-year stop to operations, Nigeria’s biggest tomato plant owned by billionaire, Mr Aliko Dangote, has shut down again.
According to the Managing Director of Dangote Farms, Mr Abdulkareem Kaita, the company had been losing at least N30 million every month with employees not contributing to production.
It was gathered that even farmers had switched to other crops at the beginning of the rainy season in May.
The tomato plant, located in Kano, was closed for more than two years until March this year over a supply disruption partly caused by a price dispute with farmers.
Following the resolution of the issue, the factory was unable to increase production beyond 20 percent of its capacity due to inadequate supply of tomatoes, as most of the farmers lacked the needed credit to expand production.
Mr Kaita, who noted that the plant was set up to supplant imports of tomato paste mostly from China, would continue to push ahead, called upon the government to enforce its decision to curtail tomato-paste imports to reduce incidents of dumping of subsidized pastes on the Nigerian market.
“The effective implementation of the government’s policy in restricting tomato paste importation will guarantee more investment in the tomato value chain, which will eventually lead to self-sufficiency in few years to come,” he said.
Mr Kaita revealed that Dangote Farms had acquired a 5,000-hectare farm to grow a high-yield variety of tomatoes to meet its factory’s requirements while introducing the same strain to other farms to increase their productivity.
He said that this would enable the output of farmers to improve tremendously and the processing factory would in turn record ample supply.
Nigeria consumes and produces around 2.3 million tonnes of tomatoes a year but due to poor roads and storage facilities, many of the locally grown tomatoes rot before they get to the market.
Figures show that Nigeria imports about 1.3 million tons of tomatoes to replace the ones that rot, mostly from China and other parts of Asia making Nigeria the third-largest importer of the commodity in Africa.
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