The Federal Government will this year prioritise tomato paste processing as part of its strategic implementation plan, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday in Abuja.
He said this while declaring open the 2016 Africa Economic Conference with the theme: “Feed Africa: Towards agro-allied industrialization for inclusive growth.’’
Represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, he said that the decision to have tomato paste processed in Nigeria was a strategic implementation plan to become self-sufficient in the product.
“The choice of tomato is predicated on our ability to produce tomatoes in large quantities several times a year as well as its extensive use in Nigerian meals.
“There is of course the opportunity to generate a large number of agricultural jobs and also as a means to adding value along the agro-allied chain.’’
He said that there were many factors that affected the nation’s aspirations in this regard.
He said there was the need to plant the appropriate quality of the food to be used for processing.
Buhari also said that a lot of small scale farms were not linked to large farms, so they faced the problems of transportation and storage, especially where tomatoes were ripe, posing additional challenges.
“Operators still have to contend with issues of infrastructure, especially power generation.
“This is a very important issue because it goes to the very heart of being competitive against import from other parts of the world which have penetrated the market.
“We currently have to carry out appropriate levels of support and protection for this sector.’’
He also identified high cost of finance as a factor tomato farmers and tomato paste manufacturers have to contend with.
He added that the government was trying to mitigate this through its development institutions like the Bank of Agriculture and the Bank of Industry.
Another intervention, he said, was the micro farmers credit scheme targeting small scale farmers.
Buhari commended the contributions of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in supporting Nigeria towards economy diversification.
“The recent support of 600 million dollars provided by AfDB as the first tranche of the planned one billion dollar support to Nigeria will certainly go a long way in helping the country to further pursue reforms in the agriculture sector.
“The government is also keen in ensuring that Nigeria adds value to what it produces.
“This is why we are very pleased that the AfDB will be supporting Nigeria in the development of a staple crop processing zone and other agro-industrial parks.’’
The AfDB President, Mr Akinwunmi Adesina, said agriculture, which contributes over 28 per cent of the GDP of Africa, holds the key for the accelerated growth, diversification and job creation for African economies.
He, however, lamented the poor performance of the sector in Africa, adding that it was still dominated by large number of subsistence farmers.
He also said that the sector suffered from low levels of public investment, including access to finance for farmers and agribusinesses.
“Agriculture has largely been seen as a development sector for managing poverty and not for creating wealth.
“Yet Africa sits on a huge potential of agriculture; it is estimated that about 65 per cent of uncultivated arable land left in the world that will feed nine billion people by 2050 lies in Africa.
“What Africa does with agriculture will shape the future of food growth.
Adesina said that estimates had shown that food and agri-business sector was projected to grow from 330 billion dollars today to one trillion dollars by 2050.
He said that the key to achieving that was to start with treating agriculture as a business.
“It must start with taking a full value chain approach to modernise agriculture, from the farm to the table and it must start with supporting agro-industrial development.
“Africa must rapidly invest in the development of its agro-industry, and move away from being seen as just a billion mouths to feed.
“Africa must learn from experiences elsewhere, where agriculture has been the foundation for driving fast- paced economic growth, by building a strong food and agro-industrial manufacturing base quickly.’’
Adesina said that the key to Africa’s prosperity was value addition in agriculture, in turning products to money and in looking inwards, adding that Africa should feed itself.
He said that to take new agricultural technologies to scale, the Bank will soon launch a new 800 million dollars initiative called Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT).
He said that the aim was to reach 40 million farmers over a 10 year period.
He also said the Bank would invest 24 billion dollars in agriculture and agribusiness over the next 10 years under its Feed Africa strategy.
“Our goal is simple; support massive agro-industrial development all across Africa.
“To make this happen, there is need for well-directed public policies to incentivise the agricultural sector, especially agribusiness and food manufacturing companies.’’
Mr Abdoulaye Dieye, Director, Regional Bureau for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that unless agriculture was fully transformed, Africa would remain trapped in a low productivity cycle.
He also said harnessing the power of greater regional integration through regional and global value chains, is critical to achieving economic diversification, competitiveness, technology and knowledge transfer.
He advised African governments to work with their bilateral and multilateral partners to support the agro-allied industrialisation agenda.
“In this regard, developed and emerging countries must work to remove unfair trade barriers, eliminate harmful agricultural export subsidies.
“They must also reduce regional protectionism that limits Africa’s access to markets and makes the continent a dumping ground.’’