Hosa Green­House set to achieve all-year-round tomato pro­duc­tion

Sunday Trust - - AGRIC BUSINESS - From Us­man A. Bello, Benin

Be­fore now, only few Nige­ri­ans em­braced green­house farm­ing, maybe be­cause of its cost im­pli­ca­tion. But to­day, the Wells Hosa Green­House Farm Lim­ited, lo­cated in Edo State, is show­ing the way for all-year-round farm­ing in Nige­ria.

Wells Hosa Green­House, owned by Cap­tain Ida­hosa Wells Okun­bor (retd), last month, launched its first fruit har­vest of its green­house tomato farm in Benin.

Green­house al­lows all-year­round farm­ing, but the cost of set­ting it up, as well as its main­te­nance, re­main the great prob­lems for many farm­ers.

Many of such farms ear­lier set up in the coun­try folded up, partly be­cause of main­te­nance, and this is giv­ing much con­cern if the tech­nol­ogy is re­ally to be­come a house­hold name in the coun­try.

The chair­man of Wells Green­House, Cap­tain Okun­bor, told Daily Trust on Sun­day that the green­house was the cul­mi­na­tion of a dream that had long been in his heart.

He said, “As a lit­tle boy grow­ing up in Benin sev­eral decades ago, the dis­tinct im­age of farm­ing, be­ing the com­mon means of liveli­hood, was a sig­nif­i­cant pic­ture in­grained in my con­scious­ness. To­day, the tech­nol­ogy-driven Wells Hosa Green­House Farms is a project borne out of that men­tal pic­ture.”

Okun­bor said the farm would en­sure all-year-round pro­duc­tion of toma­toes for the na­tion’s mar­ket.

Wells Hosa Green­House Farms, Daily Trust on Sun­day gath­ered, is a pi­o­neer project, which de­vel­op­ment is based on hy­dro­ponic tech­nol­ogy (a method of grow­ing plants in con­trolled en­vi­ron­ments, us­ing min­eral nu­tri­ents in water, not soil).

“The farm in­cor­po­rates var­i­ous sys­tems in­te­grated by ir­ri­ga­tion, fer­til­i­sa­tion and pest con­trol to ob­tain op­ti­mal plant growth and greater yield, as com­pared with tra­di­tional open field meth­ods.

“Well Hosa Green­House is the first of its kind in Nige­ria, and it is in the fore­front of pi­o­neer­ing the in­no­va­tion in en­sur­ing food security and em­ploy­ment,” Okun­bor said.

Daily Trust on Sun­day gath­ered that Wells Hosa Green­House stands on a 27-hectare land with green hous­ing ca­pac­ity for 28 hy­dro­ponic green­houses: 5,440 square me­tres each.

The farm, it was fur­ther gath­ered, has an es­ti­mated pro­duc­tion value of 4,200 tonnes per year, as well as es­ti­mated and pro­jected rev­enue of $5m an­nu­ally.

Okun­bor said at full ca­pac­ity, the farm would di­rectly em­ploy 500 peo­ple while in­di­rectly em­ploy­ing thou­sands of youths and women that would be en­gaged in the pro­duc­tion of many types of veg­eta­bles for lo­cal con­sump­tion, as well as ex­port.

He said Nige­ria pro­duced 1.8 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of toma­toes an­nu­ally, but nearly 0.7 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of this quan­tity was lost af­ter har­vest.

“It is es­ti­mated that Nige­ria im­ports toma­toes worth $360m an­nu­ally. So we still have a lot of work to do to en­sure self-suf­fi­ciency and im­port sub­sti­tu­tion while gen­er­at­ing dol­lar in­flow through ex­port,” he added.

He said the farm was po­si­tioned to help rev­o­lu­tionise the tomato in­dus­try in Nige­ria and im­pact the en­tire agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

“In 2000, Mex­ico had 790 hectares of green­houses and in­creased to 25,251 hectares in 2016, on a growth trend of about 1,200 hectares per year,” adding that, “in 2017, the agri-food sec­tor of Mex­ico reached record fig­ures in ex­port, ob­tain­ing rev­enues of $32.6bn.

“To­day, mod­ern agri­cul­ture is im­mersed in an eco­nomic process of glob­al­i­sa­tion that can­not be ig­nored. So it is nec­es­sary to adopt new tech­nolo­gies that al­low us to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, ob­tain bet­ter qual­ity prod­ucts, seek self-suf­fi­ciency and ac­cess in­ter­na­tional mar­kets with bet­ter prices.

“With the record of our first fruit har­vest we in­tend to repli­cate its scal­able and mod­u­lar pro­duc­tion model in other states of the coun­try, with the aim of sat­is­fy­ing both do­mes­tic and ex­port de­mand of hor­ti­cul­tural prod­ucts and in­creas­ing nonoil ex­ports in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

“Dur­ing our con­cep­tion stages, we iden­ti­fied chal­lenges in the agro-food sec­tor to in­clude poor trans­porta­tion of goods from the north­ern part of the coun­try to the South, as well as loss of pro­duce due to in­ef­fec­tive pack­ag­ing and stor­age fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

To­day, Wells Hosa Green­House is abun­dantly equipped to han­dle the de­mands of mov­ing prod­ucts from Edo State to the rest of the coun­try.

Speak­ing dur­ing the first har­vest from the farm, the Min­is­ter of State for Agri­cul­ture, Sen. Heineken Lokpo­biri, said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment en­dorsed green­house farm­ing in the coun­try to boost food pro­duc­tion.

Lokpo­biri said, “Be­fore the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Bi­hari, agri­cul­ture was seen as gov­ern­ment pro­gramme, but with Wells Hosa Green­House Farm, Nige­ri­ans are re­al­is­ing the im­por­tance of agri­cul­ture, not only as an in­vest­ment, but as a busi­ness.”

On his part, Se­gun Awolowo, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor/Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the Nige­rian Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil (NEPC), said the green­house project was an ini­tia­tive es­tab­lished in line with the ac­cept­able stan­dard re­quired for ex­port.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the green house would en­sure tomato pro­duc­tion all-year-round in the coun­try, as well as ex­port­ing to other coun­tries of the world.

From Left: Edo First Lady, Betsy Obaseki, Ma­garete Ida­hosa, Cap­tain Okun­bor, Edo Deputy Gover­nor Philip Shaibu and Benin Crown Prince, Ezelekhae Ewuare, dur­ing the first har­vest from the farm

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