A Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Management, Goke Bodunde, has advised the Federal Government to ban imported tomato pastes and other agricultural produce that do not meet global standards.
Delivering the 59th inaugural lecture of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), titled: Unveiling the Beauty of an Unforbidden Fruit, on Wednesday, Bodunde said some imported pastes contain up to 50 per cent starch before dilution in Nigeria where an additional 15 per cent starch is often added.
With annual demand for tomato standing at 2.45 million metric tonnes per annum, compared to the 1.8 million metric tonnes produced, the expert said the scramble to satisfy the market had led to unethical abuses detrimental to human health.
He said: “This is the story of some of the tomato pastes and puree imported into Nigeria, 91.1 per cent of which according to NAFDAC (2015), failed to meet the required standard.
“It is noteworthy that most of the pastes are imported as concentrates in drums and big cans from Italy, India and China. They are usually diluted, packaged and finally canned by various canning industries in Nigeria”.
The expert attributed the country’s poor yield of the fruit to the importation of substandard tomato pastes and consumption of rotten tomato fruits called esha in tomato markets of Southwestern Nigeria.
He said Nigeria has the poorest yield performance of tomato in the world with about 4-5 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), compared to Egypt’s 39.7t/ha and South Africa with 78.7t/ha.
Bodunde also said environmental and management factor was responsible for the country’s low yield, which is two per cent of the total world’s total, despite being widely cultivated.
On the way forward, the expert recommended that the university which is endowed with huge human and material potential, could promote interest in research in the tomato value chain.
He also suggested that universities and research institutes should encourage researchers’ adoption of crop commodities for crop-based research to reap the benefit of comparative advantage of in-depth knowledge of individual crops.
Bodunde strongly advocated for investment in tomato canning industry by the public and private sector, as well as the promotion of research-industry linkage and funding for research by the three tiers of government.