Dilemma of tomato farm­ers

Daily Trust - - AGRICULTURE - By Shehu Abubakar, who was in Kano Oga Sa’adu Ali Yadak­wari

Tomato may be one of the most pop­u­lar veg­eta­bles pro­duced in commercial quan­ti­ties in most of the north­ern states that is not only avail­able at ev­ery mar­ket but is fast be­com­ing a bur­den to its farm­ers, mar­keters and oth­ers linked to the tomato busi­ness in the coun­try.

Tomato farm­ers at Kadawa ir­ri­ga­tion area in Kano State, which is be­lieved to be the largest tomato pro­duc­ing area in Nigeria, said they are pro­duc­ing at a loss but can­not stop the pro­duc­tion be­cause it is part of the sta­ple food that ev­ery fam­ily uses.

Musa Mo­hammed and Yakubu Nuhu are tomato farm­ers in Kadawa ir­ri­ga­tion area. They told Daily Trust in sep­a­rate in­ter­views that tomato pro­duc­tion is now be­ing con­ducted with high losses, warn­ing that un­less some­thing ur­gent is done to re­lieve the farm­ers of the prob­lems they face, many of them will aban­don it.

“There is just no gain in tomato farm­ing in this coun­try. We are farm­ing toma­toes at a loss. I am aware that a lot of tomato farm­ers in the coun­try will aban­don toma­toes for other crops be­cause we can­not con­tinue to bear the loss in tomato pro­duc­tion,” Musa had said.

Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Tomato Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria, Al­haji Sani Dan­ladi Yadak­wari, told Daily Trust in an in­ter­view in Kano that tomato farm­ing seems to be more prob­lem­atic com­pared to other sec­tors of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion be­cause of the many prob­lems af­fect­ing its farm­ing, mar­ket­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion.

“You see, be­gin­ning from the lo­cal pro­duc­tion of toma­toes, it is prob­lem upon prob­lem. The com­mon­est tomato seed we plant in Nigeria is OP (open pol­li­nated), UC or Ro­man. Tomato fac­to­ries are more in­ter­ested in F1 star hat is in a pack of 1,000 seeds. When you plant it and it grows then you trans­plant. You will use her­bi­cides and in­sec­ti­cides be­fore har­vest; all that is money.

“Upon suc­cess­ful har­vest, the farmer is ex­pected to pay women and chil­dren N100 per bas­ket to pick the toma­toes for him. He will also pay N50 to trans­port each bas­ket from the farm to the mar­ket. It is also the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the farmer to buy empty bas­kets N200 each that he will put the toma­toes in. By im­pli­ca­tion, the farmer spends N350 to get a bas­ket of his toma­toes to the mar­ket where he sells it N500.

“When you look at it crit­i­cally, the only thing the farmer gets from a bas­ket of toma­toes har­vested from his farm is just N150. When you deduct the cost of seeds, her­bi­cides, in­sec­ti­cides and labour from the N150, if there is any­thing left, that is the gain of the farmer. You can see that there is prob­lem and the prob­lem is as a re­sult of the fail­ure of govern­ment to do what it ought to do.

“Farm­ers every­where in the world en­joy a lot of sub­sidy and in­ter­ven­tion from govern­ment and in­dus­tries. Dan­gote group re­cently took us to Sene­gal to see how tomato farm­ers re­late with the tomato com­pa­nies there. It is a clean chain of busi­ness where the farm­ers har­vest and sup­ply the fac­to­ries di­rectly. The fac­to­ries will weigh the toma­toes sup­plied to them by farm­ers and pay ac­cord­ingly,” he said.

Not­ing that the type of toma­toes pro­duced lo­cally in the coun­try is dif­fer­ent from the type re­quired by tomato fac­to­ries for the pro­duc­tion of tin and tomato paste, Al­haji Sani Yadak­wari said the farm­ers at Kadawa ir­ri­ga­tion area are into the pro­duc­tion of about four va­ri­eties of toma­toes that in­clude high­bred which is re­quired by fac­to­ries as lo­cal raw ma­te­rial.

“In any case, the farm­lands at Kadawa are very good for the pro­duc­tion of all va­ri­eties of tomato. What we ex­pect is for Dan­gote or any tomato com­pany that wants to buy tomato from us to pro­vide us with the seed of the va­ri­ety they want and we pro­duce it for them. That is never a prob­lem,” he said.

But chair­man of tomato deal­ers at the main tomato mar­ket at Kwa­nar Gafan in Kano, Oga Sa’adu Yadak­wari, said the loss in­curred in tomato busi­ness is not only as­so­ci­ated to pro­duc­tion but also in its mar­ket­ing and trans­porta­tion to mar­kets out­side the state.

“Tomato is a per­ish­able item that starts los­ing its first value the mo­ment it is re­moved from the farm. At the peak of tomato har­vest, we load up to 200 to 250 trucks of toma­toes that we send to mar­kets out­side Kano daily. We also lose sev­eral bas­kets of toma­toes that get rot­ten daily due to poor mar­ket. We have no means of pre­serv­ing toma­toes or pro­cess­ing here ex­cept the tomato fac­tory that Dan­gote is try­ing to es­tab­lish not too far from here.

“The prob­lem with the sale of toma­toes was not as bad as it is un­til Dan­gote came to ad­dress tomato farm­ers at Kadawa where he said his tomato fac­tory will start oper­a­tion on Jan­uary 1st and he will be buy­ing 120 truck­loads daily. That was what mo­ti­vated our farm­ers to pro­duce more this sea­son but the fac­tory failed to start oper­a­tion even up to March. Some­one how­ever came to tell us that they will com­mence pro­duc­tion this month, April. But can they con­vince the farm­ers to in­crease pro­duc­tion now? We have lost a lot.

“Our tomato deal­ers that take toma­toes to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in the coun­try are also op­er­at­ing at a loss. You will load a ve­hi­cle from here to Port Har­court and mid-way into the trip, when the ve­hi­cle de­vel­ops a fault or po­lice de­lay it on the way, the whole

con­sign­ment gets rot­ten and one has to run away even from the driver who will in­sist you pay him,” he said.

Chair­man of the farm­ers as­so­ci­a­tion in the state, Al­haji Yusuf Nad­abo Chi­ro­mawa, said though Kano is still the largest and most pro­duc­tive state in agri­cul­ture, farm­ers in the state re­quire federal govern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion to be able to pro­duce more food items that could guar­anty food se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

He said farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the state have come un­der very se­ri­ous threat due to ne­glect by the federal govern­ment, adding, “our luck is that the present ad­min­is­tra­tion in the state has taken the is­sue of farm­ing very se­ri­ously through the train­ing of people in var­i­ous as­pects of farm­ing and the sup­port the state govern­ment has been giv­ing to farm­ers. But for the state’s in­ter­ven­tion, most farm­ers would have aban­doned the trade by now,” he said.

Chair­man of Wa­ter Users As­so­ci­a­tion of Kadawa ir­ri­ga­tion area, Al­haji Muazu Datti Yadak­wari, said though tomato farm­ers in the area are used to record­ing losses as a re­sult of glut, the sit­u­a­tion this sea­son is un­prece­dented and un­bear­able.

“We could have man­aged the sit­u­a­tion if not be­cause Dan­gote came to tell us to in­crease pro­duc­tion to meet his prom­ise of buy­ing 120 trailer loads of toma­toes ef­fec­tive from Jan­uary 1st but till date he has not come to even buy a trailer load. What we have pro­duced is by far more than the re­quire­ment for lo­cal con­sump­tion,” he said.

When con­tacted for com­ment, the Group Head of Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Dan­gote Group, Mr Anthony Chiejina, said in an SMS that he had trav­eled out of the coun­try but promised to get across to the re­porter when he re­turned.

Farm­ers say they spend a lot to get a bas­ket of toma­toes to the mar­ket

Trucks load­ing Toma­toes to dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions from the mar­ket at Kwa­nar Gafan in Kano

Alh. Sani Dan­ladi Yadak­wari

Alh. Muazu Datti Yadak­wari

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