Dilemma of tomato farmers
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