Nigeria imports not less than 189.5 metric tons of tomato paste and sauce in the last 12 months, an expert has said.
The expert, Duro Kuteyi, food manufacturer at Betamark Consulting, made the disclosure on Friday in Lagos, while reacting to issues of post-harvest waste of fresh tomatoes in major farms across the country.
Kuteyi, a food technologist, told the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos that there was a lot of waste of fresh tomatoes and pepper in Nigeria.
He attributed the reasons to post harvest losses and lack of processing techniques which had made Nigerians to rely on imported tomato products.
Kuteyi said: “In spite of being identified as the 14th largest producer of tomatoes, it is sad to note that Nigeria imports various processed tomato products for the consumption of its nationals.
“The imported tomato products include, canned tomato paste, tomato ketchup and various sauces, canned tomato fruit, etc.
“Between 2015 and 2016, a total of 189,510.11 metric tons of tomato paste was imported into Nigeria.
“This is equivalent to 1,042,305.68 metric tons of fresh tomatoes.
“A lot of the tomatoes grown in Nigeria suffer post-harvest losses incurred from transporting harvest from the farms in the northern part of the country where they are grown, to the southern markets where they are consumed.
“These no doubt prevent sizeable proportion of the harvested tomatoes from getting to the consumer and end in garbage heaps nation-wide.
“However, post-harvest losses can be minimized or completely eliminated if food processing techniques are put to practice.”
To minimize post-harvest losses, Kuteyi said his organisation had partnered Bank of Industry to sponsor the training of Nigerians on tomato and pepper processing in 12 states in the federation.
He said the training would also include fruit processing.
According to Kuteyi the training will create not less than 500,000 jobs for youths, retirees and other interested people willing to go into food processing.