The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has revealed that the Federal Government will soon place a ban on the importation of tomato paste.

He made this disclosure while speaking during a tour of the Dangote Tomato Processing Plant at Kadawa in Garun-Mallam local government area of Kano State on Monday, February 4, 2019.

While lamenting that Nigeria spends billions of dollars annually on the importation of tomato paste, he said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is committed towards encouraging sustainable local production as part of its diversification policy in agriculture.

He noted that the N250 billion fund earmarked by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the Bank of Agriculture will be used as soft loans given to tomato farmers with the aim of improving local production.

He said, "Federal government will continue to encourage Dangote agro-farms and the farmers to grow massive tomatoes in Nigeria and with this kind of outfit, farmers will earn more with better seedlings from the Dangote greenhouse and get better results.

"The farmers will supply to the processor and eventually join tomato breeders in the world. In a short while, Nigeria will simply stop importation and dependence on other sources for tomato supply."

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

Also part of the tour was the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who praised the plant as the only true tomato processing plant in the country.

"The green house plant will produce 3 million seedlings which will supply to farmers. With this hybrid tomato seedling, farmers will be able to produce over 70,000 tons per hectare against the 10,000 tons.

"This output will encourage farmers to increase their production and provide job opportunity.

"Let me emphasise the Federal Government ban on those foods and other items we can produce in this country still remain on the banning list," he said.

Billionaire businessman and chairman of the Dangote Tomato Processing Plant, Aliko Dangote, expressed confidence that the tomato paste will ensure Nigeria will be self-sufficient in tomato paste consumption by 2021.

"If Nigeria can take the right step only one move, ban it, get support from the CBN on Anchor Borrowers and the Federal Government, by 2021, Nigeria will not import a kilo of tomato concentrate," he said.