The ground breaking ceremony for the setting up of an agricultural company for transforming small holder farmers into commercial producers and the production of tomato paste has been performed in Kaduna.
The firm which has a $5m investment in tomato processing has pledged to produce 10 percent of the tomato paste to be consumed in Nigeria.
The Managing Director of Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited, Mira Mehta, said with over five years of impact in scalable, high yielding tomato and maize production in Nigeria, the company is now on a mission to significantly contribute to Nigeria's food sufficiency, job creation and local capacity development.
Mehta said Kaduna was chosen for the siting of the Tomato Jos processing facility because the state is an investor friendly and productive destination.
"The company focuses on year-round crop cultivation as well as food processing and value addition for the Nigerian and West African markets," she said.
Mehta said the project was proudly supported by the CBN as a hallmark of its entrepreneurial agriculture and capacity development programme, and Tomato Jos had credited the CBN's import restrictions on tomato paste as one of the leading factors in its success.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, at the ceremony, commended the Kaduna State Government for the initiative to boost agriculture in Nigeria.
He said tomato is widely cultivated across Nigeria with small holder farmers planting within 0.5 to 4 hectares of land accounting for about 90% production according to the Foods and Agriculture Organization, FAO, statistics adding that "Nigeria has the largest area cultivated for fresh tomato in Africa, with 521,800 hectares followed by Egypt with 214,000."
Emefiele said prior to the intervention of the current administration, the varieties of tomato cultivated in Nigeria were low yielding with about 12 tonnes per hectare with cannot be compared to yields of as high as 50 tonnes per hectare or 25 tonnes per hectare in other climes.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said Kaduna, being the largest producer of maize, soya beans, ginger and sorghum in Nigeria, welcomed investment in agriculture.
He called on big investors and agricultural processors to move to Kaduna and invest, saying the state has arable lands for large scale farming.