Nigeria’s N180bn Tomato Harvests depend on Unreliable Climate
Annually, tomatoes harvests in Nigeria worth about N180 billion, which survives mainly on rain-fed agriculture, has become very unpredictable due to climate change and the creating need for massive investments in irrigation.
The N180 billion is estimated based on the country’s production of about 1.8million metric tons annually, according to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former Central Bank governor, in 2014 and price of N5, 000 per 50kg basket which is the most usual price tomato is sold when there is no scarcity.
But due to climate change, since about 10 years ago, the price of tomatoes increases rapidly around April to July as a result of delayed or early rains and/or flooding yearly. This year, tomato price increased by almost 1,000 percent from N3, 000 to N5, 000 per 50kg basket around March/April to N30, 000 to N38, 000 in June/Early July. For this year the problem could also be lingering fuel scarcity in Nigeria and pest/disease outbreak.
But as predicted by industry watchers – tomatoes harvested mainly in the Southwest started flooding the market stabilizing prices. Supply is expected to further increase as tomatoes harvested in the north would also be available by November/ December.
Head, Lagos Fadama Apex Body, Abiodun Oyelekan, told Business Day at the peak of the scarcity in June, “In Southwest tomatoes grown will be available for sale in the market by August ending which will reduce the prices drastically. But some other industry watchers predicted then that the remarkable fall in prices would start by July ending, if there were sunshine days allowing the tomatoes to ripen. This occurred because the August break rainfall started in July which was what the tomatoes need to ripen.
Usman Baba, Financial Secretary, Arewa Perishable Foodstuffs Market Association, Mile 12 Market has also predicted, that he current tomato scarcity will end finally by November/December this year when tomatoes grown in the north will be in abundant supply. But the prices will not return to N5,000 which was the initial price early this year. The 50kg basket most likely will be sold for N7,000 by November/December.
Many industries have however noted that Nigeria with an annual demand of 2.3 million metric tons of tomatoes and yearly production of 1.8million metric tons, still falls short of demand and cannot continue to depend on favourable climate. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that, tomato alone constitutes 18 percent of all vegetables consumed by Nigerians.
Johnson Chukwu, Managing Director, Cowry Assets urged a stimulation in private agricultural investments which includes massive irrigation facilities through reduction in the cost of funds to such productive sectors.
Presently, the federal government’s annual dry season farming scheme which provides funds for crop production is deployed only in the northern states during the dry season in the north while states in the south depend mainly on rain-fed agriculture. But in recent years climate change is making these thus far smooth farming operations a yearly problem for farmers all over the country especially in the South.
Veteran farmer and Chief Executive, X-ray Farm Consulting, Afioluwa Mogaji, said, “If there had also been funding for massive irrigation in the south, whenever rains are delayed in April which is the case in recent years, farmers in the South would still commence planting and we would not have this shortage, not only of tomatoes but other crops such as maize.”
Nigeria expends an annual import bill of N16 billion on tomato pastes which would reduce very soon as a result of the CBN’s new policy on withholding forex for such imports.