Tomato farming has long been overlooked by many Nigerians who choose to venture into agriculture for the first time. This somewhat ignored vegetable crop has remained a constant ingredient for the preparation of multiple meals in the country. This generally implies that the average Nigerian can’t consciously go a day without eating a meal prepared with tomatoes.
In spite of it’s ignored state by new farmers, this vegetable crop is currently grown by over 200,000 farmers in Nigeria, whom collectively grow over 1.5 million metric tonnes of tomatoes every year.
Demand Estimates For Tomato Products
Despite the population of tomato farmers and the volume grown yearly, about half of the harvests are lost to spoilage and several other factors before they get to the market. Even if the lot gets successfully supplied (which is highly unlikely), the domestic demand for tomatoes in Nigeria extremely exceeds the supply with over 2 million metric tonnes of the vegetable crop demanded yearly. This unsatiable demand makes Nigeria supplement the tomato supply by importing about 300,000 metric tonnes of tomatoes worth over $360 million dollars yearly.
With Nigeria’s population at 170 million, and expected to reach or surpass 400 million by the year 2050, the potential of tomato farming as a profitable agricultural business for millions to venture into cannot be overestimated.
What Part Of Tomato Farming Can You Play A Part In?
Just as every other agricultural business idea, there are several parts any new or existing farmer can play a role in. Here are two in tomato farming:
1). Tomato Production:
This involves the use of a farmland to grow tomato crops. This usually encompasses tomato seeds, an irrigation channel, tomato nurseries, adequate fertiliser, and a good technical know-how of starting and growing a tomato plantation.
It’s not entirely compulsory that you start out on a standard farmland. Tomato crops can grow even in your backyard. Taking off from there would be a good place to start. As you confidently realise you can really pull through running a tomato farm on a large scale, you can then proceed to setup a standard tomato farm.
2) Tomato Processing:
After tomatoes are grown and sold by farmers to end users, some buyers take the purchased tomato further, by creating by-products from this crop.
Tomato processing largely involves converting the farm product into other forms. E.g tomato pastes, ketchup, etc.
Setting Up A Tomato Farm
To setup a working tomato farm, you’d need a variety of conditions and resources to both be met and acquired. These are:
1). A Farmland:
You’d need a wide area to grow your crops. Whether you’re starting out of your backyard or not, having a dedicated piece of land groomed specifically for growing your tomato crops is the first and most important thing.
2). Tomato Seeds:
Having the right breed of tomato seeds is important to the success of your tomato farm. Whether it’s roma tomatoes (the most common and widely sold tomato breed in Nigeria), cherry tomatoes, sauce tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes or even more, identifying and purchasing the seeds for the right breed is important1 to your farm’s success.
The tomato seeds are best grown indoors first, then transferred to beds when they have an established root system and a few leaves. This is important because they need a constant temperature of at least 60 degrees and preferably 80 degrees to germinate.
3). A Good Irrigation System:
Your crops would need to be grown in a highly regulated watered environment. Dry lands mostly never grow crops, and with various factors like timing, genetics, environment, water supply, and more to be considered, a good irrigation system must be in place to ensure your tomato crops stay health.
Not all farmlands are suitable to grow tomato crops. For some, you need to constantly fertilise the soil to achieve optimum growth. Using the right fertilizer on your farmlands to aid your tomato crop growth is important to the crop’s full and healthy maturity.
Potential Risks Involved
- Potential risks ranging from rodent, insects, pests, birds, and more attacks on your crops could lead to terrible losses.
- The startup cost for running a large scale tomato farm, or tomato processing plant is extremely high. Not treating such an investment with care could not only lead to a heavy loss, but could tank an individual’s financial status all together.