How farmers can turn the tide, by experts Over the years, tomato production in Nigeria is largely done through irrigation in most states of the north. Only a few could afford to grow the widely consumed fruit in green houses during the rain-fed season.
Kadawa irrigation valley in Kano State is home to the largest number of dry season producers. An appreciable number of the producers could also be found in Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Jigawa and Plateau states, with pockets spread across other states. However, many of these farmers do not have the facilities (like green houses or rain-fed varieties) to produce during the wet season as the local varieties are not suitable for rain-fed. This inexorably creates scarcity during the rainy (wet) season.
The dry season favours the local varieties because the nights are cooler as a result of lower mist in the air whereas growing the fruit in the wet season becomes difficult because heat is trapped in the moisture and the soil temperature is high making the varieties that farmers have difficult to cultivate.
Mira Mehta, the CEO of Tomato Jos Farming & Processing, a company currently involved in the production of tomato along Kangima Dam in Kaduna, who spoke with one of our reporters recently, said the company could not produce during the rain-fed season because of the cost involved.
Although the company uses a variety called E8400 from a US company called BHN, which is high-yielding, it is alsothat too is not suitable for the wet season; therefore for Mehta, their 500-hectare land will be used for maize during the wet season.
However, the introduction of heat-tolerant varieties and their availability, which is a significant development in the tomato industry, may change the story of perennial scarcity of the fruit/berry during the rainy season.
Best ways to plant tomato during rainy season -Experts A horticulturist and senior lecturer at the Department of Agronomy, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Dr Isah A Shero, has noted that tomato varieties like Roma VF, UTC, ‘Dan Syria’, ‘Dan Baga’, ‘Tandon’ most of which are foreign could do well under rain-fed agriculture.
Dr. Shero, in an interview with Daily Trust Tuesday, noted that some varieties like SAM TOM 7 among others were bred at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) Samaru but the genetic materials have since been transferred to the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) in Ibadan.
The expert stated also that the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) recently released a new rain-fed variety called Eva F1. He said hybrid varieties like Padma F1, Platinum F1 and Diav F1 could be sourced from East-West Seeds Company and other seed companies outside the country which were bred purposely for rain-fed agriculture. Dr. Shero affirmed that most of these varieties could be found in the open market at agro-dealers shops.
Best agronomic practices On the best agronomic practices for rain-fed tomato, Dr Shero pointed out that the seeds should be sowed by drilling method and should be raised in nursery on raised beds and with good nursery management practices.
He advised farmers to prepare raised beds or ridges and that transplanting to the main field should be done 3-4 weeks at spacing of 30-40cm on ridge by 75cm apart. Again, Shero said weeding was recommended at 3-4 weeks after transplanting, adding that staking was very important for wet season tomato irrespective of the variety grown.
On fertiliser application, he disclosed that immediately after weeding, that is at 3-4 weeks after transplanting; four bags of NPK 15-15-15 fertiliser should be applied while two bags of Urea 46% Nitrogen fertiliser should be applied at six weeks after transplanting.
He explained that in order to effectively manage pest and disease attacks, insecticides and fungicides application should start six weeks after transplanting, that is at the onset of flowering and should be done biweekly.
Some of the chemicals Dr Shero recommended include Cypermethrin and demethioete, Tihan (broad-spectrum) and Confidor. The expert however observed that pest and disease control could start earlier depending on observation by the farmer.
Another expert, Bashir Ahmad-Babaji, a Professor of Horticulture at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) ABU, called for research on heat-tolerant tomato varieties, to lessen tomato scarcity in the country during the wet season.
The professor, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria in Kaduna, noted that more research will address the shortages. All-year-round farming means more money for farmers If these heat-tolerant varieties are upscaled in the country, that will create more opportunities for farmers to make more money all-year-round.
At the beginning of every wet season, Nigeria experiences shortage of tomato because production is mostly in the dry season. At the moment, even with the advancing rainy season, disease is already threatening the availability of the produce in the market; and this will further heighten fear as the Ramadan fasting period approaches.
This however means more money for farmers in states like Borno, Sokoto, Yobe, Kebbi and some other northern states where rainfall will take more weeks before it sets in.
More production can still be done in these states unlike other states where the rain has started, which traditionally halts tomato production. At present, the price of the commodity has started rising. In Kebbi State for example, a sizable basket of tomato that sold for less the N2,500 some weeks ago has risen to about N6,500.
Sahabi Bunza, one of the farmers, who spoke to our correspondent on why tomato is scarce in the state even before the commencement of the rainy season, observed that only few farmers in the state were into tomato farming. “I think what is responsible for the scarcity and increase in tomato price is the shortage in its supply. We don’t farm tomato in large quantity in Kebbi State,” he said.
The price of tomato has also gone up in Katsina State and a cross-section of residents of the state who spoke with one of our reporters expressed fear that the situation would be compounded as the annual Ramadan fasting would soon commence.
A resident of Funtua, Umar Sani, said that demand for the produce also increases during the fasting and Sallah periods because people prefer variety of dishes and as well cook in large quantities for the less privileged. An irrigation farmer, Alhaji Isiya Danja, said unbearable hot climate, pest attacks and drying up of water sources were the main reasons for fresh tomato shortage from end of March to early July.
But an irrigation expert, Alhaji Adamu Funtua, did not entirely agree with this claim, saying many farmers in Katsina were either scared of cultivating tomato during the rainy season or preferred to farm cereal crops. “Many of the farmers lack potential on the basic steps to cultivate tomato during the rainy season.
They always attribute their failure to the acidity of the rain water not knowing that the choice of the tomato seed variety is sacrosanct,” he said. In Sokoto State, the price of tomato has risen from N5,000 to N7,000 per basket in recent weeks.
The state deputy chairman, Tomatoes Sellers Association, Alhaji Shehu Mani, told one of our reporters that before the rainy season, supply of tomatoes dropped and prices are higher because of the scarcity.
“Last two weeks, the harvested tomatoes was sold at N4,000 to N5,000 per basket while damaged ones went for N2,500–N3,000 but now it is being sold at between N5,000 and N7,000 while damaged ones are sold for N3,000 to N4,000,” he disclosed, Mani explained:
“During the hot season, the price continues to rise because the supply is not much. It could be sold at N6,000 today but tomorrow, the price could jump to N7,000 –N8,000.” He said when it becomes very difficult to grow tomatoes in Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara, they go to Niger Republic for the produce.
Source: Daily Trust