Tomato farmers in Kano State may soon overcome the uncertainties surrounding their business as Dansa Foods, a branch of Dangote Group, commences operation. This was disclosed on Thursday when the team in charge of the Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZ) from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Abuja, was conducted round the new factory undergoing test-run in Kadawa area of the state.
Dansa Tomato Processing factory, described as the largest tomato processing plant in Africa, was said to have a 1,200 metric tonnes installed capacity when fully operational. Ashwin Patil, a food engineer, told the visiting SCPZ team, during the facility tour, that the commencement of operations of the plant will create price stability for tomato farmers when they harvest and they will help them to do more than one cropping season henceforth.
“When the farmers’ tomato comes, we are going to give standard prices. With the help of this plant, their tomato prices will not suddenly come down. We will show them standard practices so that their produce will increase. We will motivate them to do three plantings per year.” On indirect benefits, Patil added that there will be increased job creation for those involved in the production chain.
The consultant leading the team, Dr. Niyi Odunlami, recalled that before now, there was no incentive to grow tomato in Kano State.
“But now, there is guaranteed market,” he said, pointing out that people were growing tomato off-season as a pastime,”but now, they will do more of dry season cultivation.
“If you can grow tomato in dry season, go ahead,” Odunlami encouraged, assuring that the Dangote plant “will use 1,200 metric tonnes,” and will create room for demands.
“Nigeria, which used to import tomato paste may soon stop importation,” Odunlami predicted.
Under SCPZ, he stressed, “this (Dansa) plant is a priority for us” in terms of infrastructural support from the ministry. He recalled that the five kilometre road that was earlier provided by the ministry, to link the farmers with the factory, as part of the incentives under Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), has opened up opportunities for many tomato growers within a short time.
Continual dependence on trading in raw tomato fruits has been described as unreliable in terms of uptake at the end markets. Traders who buy from Kano, to sell in southern Nigeria complain of risks on the road and attendant losses in transit, which they describe as regular, discouraging and impacting negatively on profitability as well as causing price fluctuations. A merchant, Sunday Ogbu, from Awka, who was met loading consignment destined for the Anambra State capital, said that he sometimes spent as much as N75,000 to hire a J5 bus to transport his tomato from Kadawa to its destination.
He lamented the uncertainties associated with the long distance travel with raw tomato, which he described as ‘perishable.’ Dahiru Auta, a tomato trader from Gwarzo local government, said he takes his own tomato to Lagos by trailers. According to him, he and his colleagues incur significant losses in transit, in form of spoilage due to vehicular breakdown or accident. Although he confessed that they could record high profit margin at destination, their goods are sometimes poorly priced upon arrival.
The Director representing the ministry in Kano, Adamu Muhammed Shehu, disclosed that when the Minister, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, visited Kadawa in 2014, he was not happy seeing tomato being dried on the bare ground. “ One of the steps taken, recalled Odunlami, “was to provide necessary support in addition to Dansa’s investment. Alhaji Abdul Ibrahim head of Gafan district in Kadawa area, expressed gratitude for the intervention of the federal government in the area and how the e-wallet system introduced under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda has impacted positively on the fortunes of the farmers in the area.