Africa: the difficult match between agriculture and industry
- François-Xavier Branthôme
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Nigeria: still aiming for self-sufficiency
The Nigerian government has for several years demonstrated its desire to free itself from imports of tomato pastes and to stimulate the development of its own processing industry. The measures taken in this direction have not, however, led to any decisive development of the sector.
The Nigerian market for tomatoes and tomato products is among the largest in Africa. An important ingredient in many typical dishes, fresh tomatoes are an essential element of national cuisine.
However, due to population growth and urbanization, demand quickly and largely outstripped national supply, making it essential to import paste, especially from China, Italy and the United States. Official statistics indicate that imported volumes reached more than 160 000 tonnes in 2013, but have reduced dramatically since that date (86 000 mT annually over the period running 2017-2019, 80 000 mT in 2019). (See also our report on African imports, linked at the end of this article).
In an effort to achieve food self-sufficiency, the Nigerian government limited imports of tomato paste, particularly from China, in a program that slapped an increase in tariffs on tomato paste from 5 to 50% and introduced a KES 1 500 levy on each tonne of merchandise entering the territory. Nigerian processing companies were able to benefit from tax exemptions and no duties to be paid on certain items of equipment imported as part of investments in the tomato sector. A budget of 250 billion naira (NGN) (about USD 640 million) has also been released for tomato growers.
However, these decisions did not resolve the major structural problem in the industrial sector, which suffers from a chronic shortage of raw materials. The main reasons for this are low agricultural yields, a consequence of unsuitable agricultural practices and particularly limited access to high-yielding varieties adapted to the constraints of processing and resistant to diseases and pest attacks. According to a recent report, the cultivated areas more than doubled over the period running 2006-2016 (from 265 000 hectares (ha) to almost 668 300 ha), but average yields have stagnated at around 5.5 tonnes/hectare.
Even beyond the issue of yields, the industrial sector is deficient in terms of post-harvest management. In 2017, the national harvest was cut by nearly 700 000 tonnes of tomatoes, or around 45% of its annual potential because of this. The most often cited causes are the persistence of “dual-purpose” varieties in an insufficiently developed market, the remoteness between cultivation areas and “consumption/processing” regions, the inadequacies of road and transport infrastructures, the price of the product itself… These shortcomings are such that they constitute a major obstacle to the development of factories established on Nigerian soil.
In fact, the vagaries of processing operations at the Dangote factory have become symbolic of the failures of the sector. The group launched in March 2016 the largest tomato processing plant on the African continent, the construction of which reportedly cost around USD 20 million. The processing plant, located in Kadawa, Kano state, with a daily capacity of 1 200 tonnes of tomatoes and an annual capacity of 400 000 tonnes, was supposed to replace Chinese imports of paste. Two months after its launch, the factory had to suspend its activities, supplies having been severely disrupted by the destruction of a large part of the crops by Tuta absoluta. The relaunch of the facilities, initially scheduled for February 2017, was finally postponed to March 2019. But the recovery was short-lived, since activity has been suspended again since last September due to the lack of adequate volumes of raw materials. In four years, the plant has never used more than 20% of its potential capacity.
Kenya plans to build a tomato processing plant
Many projects to build or develop tomato processing plants have been launched in recent years in several African countries. So far, like the Dangote site in Nigeria, few have succeeded or have been able to sustain themselves.
The most recent project is an initiative of the Kenyan political authorities and involves the construction of a processing plant in the Kirinyaga region, some 100 km northeast of Nairobi.
Kirinyaga County is set to build a KES 100 million (less than EUR 870 000 or USD 940 000) tomato processing factory to boost income for farmers in the region.
Governor Mrs. Anne Waiguru said the factory will be constructed at Kangai village, where tomatoes are grown on a large scale. She announced in early May that the money was available and the construction work would soon kick off.
"Farmers' produce goes to waste when there is a glut and that is why we want this factory to be built to resolve this problem. Tomatoes will be processed into juice, which will be sold at good prices to ensure that our farmers get profit," she added.
The governor said her county was among the nation’s leading tomato-growing areas and the project would help farmers increase their income. She added that the intervention was necessitated by farmers’ grievances as they sought a solution to minimize their post-harvest losses.
Tomato ‘Ebola’ resurfaces in Kano
On 14 May 2020, the Kano State chairman of Tomato Out Growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), Sani Danladi, has revealed that Tuta absoluta, one of the most devastating pests affecting tomato crops, has resurfaced in the state, destroying farms.
Six tomato producing States inclusive, Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Gombe, Plateau and FCT were affected by the pest in 2017, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to Mr Danladi, there is also a widespread stunting of tomatoes due to the excessive heat recorded. “It’s almost every year, as far as the temperature rises above 38 degrees (°C, or 100°F). Tomatoes hardly survive during that period,” he said.
He noted that tomato farmers in Kano also lost a lot at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. “Concerning this COVID-19, we really lost so much from the beginning, even if it’s from Kano alone. […] We transplanted about 2500 hectares under the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) for this late transplanting, but, unfortunately, less than 10 per cent survived”.
Nigeria to fix tomato waste problem
Around 45% of harvested tomatoes go to waste in Africa’s most populous country.
As such, despite being Africa’s second largest producer, Nigeria still relies on importing around half of tomatoes consumed locally. But Tomato Jos, a six-year agro-processing venture, is winning investor backing to fix that problem. Local press revealed on 20 May that the company, which operates in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, has raised $4.2 million and plans to transition into processing and distribution of tomato products amid local demand-supply gaps.
The company’s plans include a processing plant with target capacity of 24 metric tonnes of tomato paste daily. Mira Metha, founder of Tomato Jos says the first five years of the company were focused on working with smallholder partners to improve production and put “a really solid foundation” for supply in place.
Source: agenceecofin.com, businessdailyafrica.com
Africa: imports of tomato paste are decreasing
Worldwide consumption of tomato products, 2018/2019 (part 2)