The Federal Government has said its planned policy on tomato will protect local manufacturers of the product and ensure an end to the importation of substandard tomato paste.
The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar, disclosed this in Lagos while on a facility tour of Erisco Foods Limited.
She said the purpose of the visit was to ascertain the capacity of local producers in order to advise the government on the content and direction of the tomato policy.
The minister had ealier said during a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja that the government was developing a tomato policy to address the scarcity of tomatoes in the country, following the outbreak of ‘tuta absoluta’ (tomato ebola) a few months back.
She said, “The major decision we have taken is to develop a tomato policy under our National Industrial Revolution Programme. A technical committee that would work on the policy draft should take-off next week (this week) so that we would have an approved plan in place before the next tomato season.
Addressing newsmen at Erisco Foods office in Lagos, the minister said the visit to all the factories was to assess their operations in terms of packaging and processing.
She said, “We are also going to engage the farmers with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and other related ministries. We are trying to ascertain what the capacity of our local manufacturers is, based on what they have, so that we can develop policies to protect them.
“The world is a global market and we want our manufacturers to be able to compete globally. The ministry is working with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to set standards. We are also working on the national infrastructure policy to guide and protect our local manufacturers in the areas of best practice and quality.”
On whether the government was patronising local manufacturers, she said the ministry was putting up a memo concerning local patronage, which should be at least 40 per cent, adding that the policy had always been in existence but the implementation had been a problem.
Abubakar commended Erisco for being able to process dry and fresh tomato into paste, noting that it was an innovation that would prevent tomato waste.
On his part, the Chairman, Erisco Foods, Chief Eric Umeofia, said he had spent N4.5bn in three days to buy dry tomato fruits for processing with his new machine with the capacity to process both fresh and dry tomato fruits into paste.
He added that the firm had acquired 2,700 hectares of land to plant tomatoes and put the capacity of the company at 450,000 metric tonnes annually with 20 tonnes to 50 tonnes produced daily.
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Frank Jacobs, who remarked that he had toured the manufacturing facilities earlier before inviting the minister, persuaded Umeofia to get a patent for his product since the factory was the only one with the capacity to convert dry tomato fruits into paste.
“It is necessary for Erisco to take up a patent so that he can open what he is doing up to the world,” he stated.