By Chidinma Ewunonu-Aluko
Ibadan – The Federal Government through the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) on Monday distributed improved tomato seeds to vegetable farmers in Oyo State.
The RMRDC Director-General, Dr Hussaini Ibrahim, said that a major pillar of the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) was industrial development and manufacturing through the processing of local raw materials.
Ibrahim, who spoke at the event in Ibadan, said that tomato, being a strategic crop, was one of the selected commodities to drive this policy thrust.
According to him, the objective is to process tomato into paste and other value-added products.
Ibrahim, represented by the council’s Assistant Director (Investment), Mr John Obekpa, said tomato was targeted by the policy even as importation of non-triple concentrate tomato paste was discouraged.
He explained that the policy had stimulated the establishment of new tomato processing plants as well as the resuscitation of some hitherto comatose tomato concentrating plants.
The director general said that in order for the plants to function at optimal capacity and competitively satisfy the demand for table use, three million metric tons of quality processing grade tomato fruits would be required.
Ibrahim said that it was imperative that access to improved seeds should be guaranteed, in addition to adopting global agronomic best practices in production and handling.
“Through these efforts, post-harvest losses of good quality tomato fruits will be minimised.
“Based on this, the RMRDC initiated the project on the development of tomato value chain with a view to addressing the challenge of raw materials deficit amongst others in the sub-sector.
“RMRDC facilitated farmers’ access to improved seeds in Nasarawa State in the 2014/15 planting season and Plateau and Taraba states in 2015/16 cropping season.
“Also in the 2016/17 planting season, vegetable farmers in Niger, Kaduna and Kano states benefitted from the distribution of improved tomato seeds; the success of the exercises were tremendous,” he said.
He further disclosed that in furtherance of its commitment to developing tomato value chain, vegetable farmers in Oyo and other states had been selected to benefit in 2018.
“Oyo state was selected because of its ecology and comparative advantage in cultivating tomato all year round if appropriate varieties are used in its Guinea Savanna,” he said.
Ibrahim also implored the state’s agricultural development programme to monitor the progress of the project to ensure its overall success in the state.
Also speaking, the Oyo state Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Oyewole Oyewumi, said that the state was committed to advancing the agricultural sector for the benefit of the nation.
Oyewumi, represented by the Programme Manager, Oyo State Agricultural Development Programme, Mrs Fadekemi Akanda, said “this explains why the state developed a 25-year Agricultural Road Map Policy for Oyo State in collaboration with IITA/NISER.’’
“It also established a 25,000ha agricultural land across the state to solve the problem of land acquisition for agricultural purposes among other incentives,’’ he added.
Oyewumi thanked the RMRDC for the gesture and gave an assurance that the farmers would be committed to boosting the production of tomato in the state.
The RMRDC Coordinator in Oyo State, Mrs Olufolake Ishiola, expressed delight that the council’s activity was in consonance with the aspiration of developing the industrial sector through the provision of raw materials.
She said the council would monitor the project and ensure that farmers obtain good grade tomato seeds that would serve as raw materials for industries.