… attributes closure to quality of locally grown tomatoes
Management of Dangote Group has revealed why it temporarily shut its newly established multibillion naira tomato paste production plant in the commercial city of Kano.
The company disclosed that one of the reasons the plant was temporarily closed was because of the low quality of the locally grown tomatoes, which make it unsuitable for the production of tomato paste.
The other reason was the outbreak of ‘Tuta Absoluta’ infestation, which makes it difficult to source the commodity from farm gates for the purpose of production.
Mansur Ahmed, executive director, Stakeholders’ Management and Corporate Communications, who made this disclosure, while responding to questions from journalists in Kano, said the company was doing everything possible to re-open the tomato plant.
As a way forward towards reopening the plant, Ahmed said the management of the plant was spearheading the cultivation of brands of tomatoes suitable for paste production in the country.
He said the land for the cultivation of the commodity was acquired in Kadawa tomato growing belt of Kano, as well as in other northern states where tomato were grown on a massive scale.
“In responses to several enquires we have been receiving from concerned stakeholders who want to know why we have to shut down our newly established tomato paste plant in Kano, my response is that the reasons have to do with the low quality of the tomatoes being grown in the country.
“In the course of turning the locally grown tomatoes into paste, we observed that it contained too much of water, which make it very difficult to be turned into paste. And while the company was still trying to make do with the tomato, we had the ‘Tuta Absoluta’ outbreak, and we have no option than to close down the plant to prevent us running at loss.
“Considering the huge amount of money required to keeping the plant running per day and with the situation we have at hand, we believe closing it down temporarily was the best option.
“In order to meet the challenge at hand, we have resolved to start the growing of the kind of tomatoes good enough for paste. To this end, we have started acquiring land for that purpose in Kano and other states in the northern parts of the country, where tomatoes are being grown on a large scale,” he said.
The tomato plant, which is the first of its kind in West Africa sub-region, is situated in Kadawa, a tomato growing belt community in the outskirt of Kano metropolis.
The plant, when fully operational, is to leverage on the huge tomato fruits being grown in the area, and is expected to reduce the over 1.2 million metric tons of processed tomatoes being imported into the country annually.
Finding indicates that all machinery of the production lines has been installed, but scarcity of raw tomatoes and the outbreak of Tuta Absoluta are delaying the functionality of the plant.
The area worse hit by the outbreak of the pest disease was Kano State, which produces 70 percent of the total tomato being cultivated in the country.
Nigeria is the hub of tomato production in the West Africa sub-region; however, about 40 percent of the total tomatoes being cultivated in the country are lost due to poor post-harvest handling, which necessitated the establishment of the plant.
With the outbreak of the Tuta Absoluta, the Federal Government and Kano State government set up some committees to come up with solutions to mitigate the outbreak, but till now the existence of the committees remains a mere paper work.