Africa’s biggest and richest business man, Aliko Dangote is set to end importation of tomato paste into Nigeria with his 3billion naira greenhouse project.
The multi-billion High–Tech Greenhouse Farm established by Dangote Farms Limited which is geared at boosting the cultivation of high-quality tomatoes in the country, has commenced full production in the commercial city of Kano.
According to a report from BusinessDay, the farm which is fully automated is the first of its kind in West Africa and is expected to transform the economy of the local tomato farmers, as the technology is expected to up their harvest from the current 10 tons per acre to as much as 40 tons.
Abdulkarim Kaita, managing director of the Dangote Tomatoes Company Processing Limited, confirmed this, on Thursday, during the visit of senior officials of the Kano Office of Central Bank of Nigeria to the farm.
Speaking to BusinessDay on the sidelines of the visit, Kaita disclosed that his company `s new investment in the farm is motivated by the quest to help Nigeria stop the over $350 million that is expended on the importation of fresh and processed tomatoes yearly.
He said his company had so far, injected over #3 billion in the development of the farm, which in the next three weeks, is expected to deliver high-quality tomato seedlings to tomato farmers across the 12 states of the Federation where the commodity is heavily cultivated.
“The management of the Dangote Farms, which is a subsidiary of Dangote Tomatoes Company Processing Limited is excited to reveal the tremendous effort that we are making to ensure that Nigeria becomes self –sufficient in tomato production.
“The planting medium you are looking at is called PAT MOOSE which has the capacity of producing 350 million seedlings per season that can be used to plant an estimate 12,000 hectares of tomato farm.
“We are glad to disclose that we are the first to bring this new technology into the country and this is going to fast track the yield of our tomato farmers tremendously.
“The project is being executed under the CBN `s Tomato Anchor-Borrowers Programme. The CBN will be paying for the seedling that we cultivating, and it will be distributed to farmers.
“The PAT MOOSE process you are seeing takes 3 weeks, after which it goes to the next stage, and the whole process of growing the tomato takes just three months” he explained.
Giving further insight into the value addition which the Greenhouse farm would provide, Kaita, noted that the introduction of the technology will put an end to post-harvest losses, as well as increase the volume of the harvest of the commodity.
In the same vein, he added that the introduction of the technology would lead to the expansion of production of the commodity, beyond the over 2.5 million tons of current consumer demand.
“Based on the study under the GEMS project, Nigeria has 171,000 hectares of land for tomato production, and if you multiply this with it the over 40 tons which the technology is capable of producing per hectare that means can grow our production to around 8 million tons.
“With this in the next two years, if Government effects the ban of the importation of commodity, just as it has been done in the case of rice, Nigeria will soon become a net exporter of the commodity.
Dangote indeed seems to be serious at ending importation of alot of products into Nigeria through his targeted investments in a wide range of products including oil and gas where he is building what might become the largest refinery in Africa.