By Jimoh Babatunde

Olam has revealed that its 500-hectare Kuda Gangara Integrated Tomato Farm in Jigawa State is driven to complement the thrust and direction of moving agriculture into a self-reliant and sustainable model by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Reji George, Head of Farming Initiatives, Olam, added that the investment which has recorded its first commercial harvest at 40 metric tonnes per hectare, exceeding earlier projections, will also ensure enough and quality food to the population, as well as environmental sustainability.

The yield is also more than four times the average yield in Nigeria.

Currently, 100 hectares have been cultivated out of the total expanse, and yields from the first commercial harvest have exceeded the initial projection which was 30 MT per hectare.

When the complete 500-hectare expanse is cultivated, overall production would be over 15,000 MT from the commercial farm alone. The project also runs a farmer out-grower program that covers over 2000 farmers currently.

The project is part of the backward integration drive of Olam-Caraway, in strengthening local sourcing of raw materials for the company’s tomato paste factory in Lagos, where popular brands of tomato pastes such as De Rica and Tasty Tom are produced.

Caraway requires 18,000MT of concentrate per annum and with the current backward integration efforts, will be able to reduce the shortfall in sourcing inputs.

The company is also on course to attain its expansion plan thereby reducing the gap significantly in the coming years. At present, Caraway can produce 44,000 MT of different products under the brands Derica, Tasty Tom, Jollof Mix, Onion Pepe etc.

The current investments by the company stand at $20 million in developing the commercial farming & out-growers program, crushing, and the plants for processing and packaging.

Reji George added “Besides, we are a leading entity in the Tomato supply chain by having a major share of the market and being present in this product over many years,” Reji further says. “Using significant volumes of Tomatoes for our products, the backward integration helps us to achieve self-sufficiency, develop local farmers and provide increased employment opportunities to the local population.”

The current year’s crushing is expected to yield about 2000 MT of concentrates for further value addition and packing at the Caraway plant in Lagos. Caraway (an Olam Group Company) has partnered with a local crushing facility, Aldusar Foods & Beverages in Katsina State as part of the local value chain in this backward integration process.

“Caraway hopes to achieve the supply of homegrown and processed innovative tomato product brands of Derica, Tasty Tom, Jollof mix, onion Pepe etc for domestic consumption,” says George.

Premender Sethi, Business Head, Packaged Food Business, Caraway (Olam Group), says this stride in achieving a local supply chain for raw materials, represents “A complete end to end Supply chain solution for domestic markets – right from growing to crushing to processing to packaging for the domestic markets (from naturally grown high-quality fresh tomatoes).”

According to him, the impact of this investment will be seen in the company’s Forex outflow which will decrease and so will the pressure to manage it. “Flexibility will increase as we can get the products produced locally and at high quality. The key critical areas to ensure are the consistency in the Fed Govt policies and an enhanced level of security,” he says.

Low farm productivity, coupled with high postharvest losses has contributed to the low output of the tomato crop in Nigeria. The Olam-Caraway project is, however, showing possibilities that exist in achieving more than four times the current average yield in Nigeria. Also, the buyback of fresh tomato fruits on time through a network of out-grower farmers and supplying to the crushing plant within 24 hours has reduced postharvest losses by more than half.

For Furera Isma Jumare, director-general, of Jigawa State Investment Promotion Agency, the significance of the caraway tomato project is that it would showcase Jigawa state as one of the largest tomato-producing states in the country.

“The caraway project, especially with harvest already beginning within a short period, clearly shows the tomato potential of the state, and it will put us right on the map of those that are the largest producers,” Jumare says. For her, expectations in terms of the caraway project’s contribution to the state are both in terms of direct and indirect employment for citizens as well as skills transfer. Also, it would contribute to the IGR of the state and hopefully in the long term, reduce the cost of certain commodities such as tomatoes.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.