Nigeria is not one of the leading tomato exporting countries in the world, in spite of being rated as one of the leading producers in Africa.
The concern was raised on Thursday in Abuja by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar.
Abubakar attributed Nigeria’s shortcoming to challenges of low yield resulting from seed type in use.
According to him, Nigeria’s various ecologies, soil and climatic conditions are suitable for production of horticultural crops.
The climate conditions, he said, conferred an immense competitive advantage and potential on Nigeria to take a leading role in tomato production and trade.
Speaking at the launch of “HortiNigeria’’ Project in which the Dutch embassy in Nigeria had said that it had a target of 9.7 million Euros income generation for 60,000 smallholder farmers in a four-year project, Abubakar said government was looking forward to catalysing increased productivity while explaining that “HortiNigeria’’ is yet another opportunity to promote activities of the horticultural sub-sector,.
He added that government was also looking forward to exposing 60,000 smallholder farmers in the four focal states to increased production.
He added that the project would facilitate 200 business-to-business linkages and 100 business partnerships.
The project is to be implemented in Kano, Kaduna, Ogun and Oyo states, focusing on tomato, okra, onion, and pepper value chains.
It was awarded to Alabama, United States-based International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) and its consortium partners.
The IFDC is a science-based public international organisation working to alleviate global hunger by introducing improved agricultural practices and fertiliser technologies to farmers and by linking farmers to markets
Its consortium partners are the East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT), Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and KIT Royal Tropical Institute.
The KIT Royal Tropical Institute is an applied knowledge institute located in Amsterdam.
It is an independent centre of expertise, education, intercultural cooperation and hospitality dedicated to sustainable development.
In his remarks, the Dutch Ambassador in Nigeria, Harry van Dijk, said the horticulture sector in Nigeria offered many opportunities as local markets demand for vegetables largely exceeded production, with an estimated supply gap of 13 million tonnes.
He noted that the project would contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive horticulture system in Nigeria.
According to him, the sector employs a high number of women and youths and increased horticultural production and will lead to better availability and affordability of nutritious foods.
“The focus is on vegetables for domestic markets and the programme has four components which are interconnected.
“The first component strives towards increasing productivity and incomes of 60.000 smallholder farmers in Kano and Kaduna states in an environmentally sustainable way.
“The second component pilots production systems and innovations in Ogun and Oyo states, supporting greenhouse technologies and offering connections to Lagos markets.
“The third component focuses on increasing access to finance throughout the vegetable value chains, mobilising six million Euros of private capital for farmers, traders, processors and small and medium enterprises.
“The fourth component enhances sector coordination and business-to-business linkages, contributing to improvements in federal and state horticultural policies,’’ he said.