As the scarcity of tomatoes in the market continues to bite harder, the managing director and chief executive of Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia, has explained why the condiment has been out of circulation.
According to Umeofia, aside the fact that tomatoes are not in season at this time of the year, there was an outbreak of “fresh tomato disease, called ‘tuta absoluta” that killed most of the tomato plants in the farm while they were yet to mature to yield fresh tomato.”
Umeofia, responding to allegations that tomato paste processing companies had mopped up fresh tomatoes from the market causing an artificial scarcity, noted that this had affected the output of local tomatoes farmers thereby causing a temporary scarcity of the product in the market.
He further explained that the scarcity was also because tomato framers lost over 75 per cent of the fresh tomato harvested last farming season, “that alone has discouraged many of tomato farmers to continue to farm this year with much expectation.”
He noted that allegations that two or three companies have bought all the fresh tomatoes in the market and “has deprived the commonman from buying fresh tomato in the market is not correct and far from the truth because the relevant ministries refused to support local farmers to change to high yield and heat resistant tomato seed variety.”
He then called on the government to support tomato farmers in the country to import high yield heat resistant tomato seeds which would have expanded tomato paste production and avoid the temporary fresh tomato scarcity in Nigeria.
Stating that Nigeria should be a tomato paste exporting country rather than being the highest tomato paste importer in the world he said “the people we expect to know and give support for tomato farming and sufficiency as promised by federal government are only interested in supporting importation of substandard tomato paste due to their personal gain.”