Nigeria is Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producer of tomatoes and at the same time the largest importer of tomato paste. It is said that the nation consumes more 900,000 tons of tomato paste annually.
The reason for the shortfall in the local supply of tomatoes can not be far-fetched, it is not due to the failure of the farmers to produce tomatoes but the lack of processing plants and storage facilities, hence 75% of locally produced tomatoes get wasted.
So as to meet the demand from the local markets, the Nigerian government now source tomato paste from other countries, these imports mostly come from China and Italy. The imports from China and Italy threaten to completely override the local tomato paste industry if Nigeria fails to come up with measures to step up production and processing of tomato paste.
Imports coupled with the recession which hit the North African country further worsened the situation in Nigeria with companies in the tomato paste industry feeling the negative effects. Most companies have closed shop due and left the country due to the recession that has hit the country. The unfavorable exchange rate has also made it difficult to do business and government has not helped matters at all.
One of Africa`s top tomato paste maker Erisco Foods quit its Nigeria operations to open up shop in Kenya, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia. Erisco Foods had the largest tomato paste processing plant in Nigerian and is the 4th largest in the world. Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote also shut his new tomato paste plant in Nigeria months after opening it.
Tomato paste is such a big deal in Nigeria as it is widely used in many Nigerians dishes such as the popular jollof rice soups.