NASIR El-Rufai, Kaduna State governor, on Monday, performed the groundbreaking of a multi-billion naira tomato processing plant owned by Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited.
The CBN-assisted plant which is to utilize raw materials from a 400-hectare tomato farm established by the company is to be commissioned in 2021.
At the groundbreaking of the plant, Governor El-Rufai expressed great delight at the multi-billion investment, saying that it had already created jobs for the people.
According to the governor, the plant will also take off the burden of insecurity by engaging the youths of the community.
“Today we are delighted that Tomato Jos is expanding its investment footprint in our state by taking a leap from growing tomato and other crops to building a facility to make tomato paste.
“With its farm, Tomato Jos has impacted on this community, creating jobs and impacting its out growers with modern farming techniques and roads to the market.
“The Kaduna state government welcomes this latest investment in our state which is endowed with vast arable land.
“Kaduna state is the number one producer of maize, tomatoes, soya beans, ginger and sorghum.
“We are calling on big investors like Tomato Jos to move to Kaduna state and produce more of these agricultural products,” he said.
He said that it is very important to encourage the private sector to invest and provide jobs as government alone could not do the work.
El-Rufai added that the likes of Tomato Jos demonstrated why Kaduna state was ranked as the number one place for doing business by the World Bank’s “doing business report for 2018”.
He commended the managing director of the company Mira Mehta for locating the company in Kaduna, stressing that she was very courageous to have done so.
“Mira, thank you very much, you are our favourite investor because we think that you are the most courageous of them all. This is why we appreciate you and we will keep checking on you; we are very proud of what you have done. We thank you for all you have done to make our people here richer and more contributors to our economic growth than dependents,” he said.
The governor thanked Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. ambassador and her predecessor, Stuart Symington for the support they had given to the project.
He also commended John Coumantaros, chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria, FMN, for the investments in the state and for encouraging others like Tomato Jos to come to the state.
Also, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said that the event marked a milestone in the bank’s intervention in agriculture.
He said that such projects are contributing to actualizing the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensuring food security by making sure that the country produced what it eats.
“Tomato Jos is one of the key projects that we are supporting in our tomato value chain and the reality of today’s event is an attestation of the successes. I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his continuous support towards diversifying the economy and creating jobs through
He said that prior to the CBN’s intervention, the varieties that were being cultivated were low yielding with 12 tonnes per hectare, adding that the newer varieties now cultivated can yield up to 50 tonnes per hectare.
He also identified that the quality hitherto available were not good for commercial processing, adding that new varieties were now better for paste making.
Emefiele disclosed that the country currently had a deficit tomato production of 1.2 million metric tonnes which was costing N2.5 billion on importation, adding that such investments would help bridge the gap.
He added that tomato is among the commodity that plays an important role in the demand for Forex in Nigeria which was why the CBN was championing local production.
“The management of Tomato Jos has performed creditably by flagging off this processing plant here in Kaduna which has the potential of creating employment for hundreds of Kaduna indigenes and other Nigerians.
“It is my sincere hope that the management of this company will remain focused and not be distracted so as to achieve the goal of this project,” he said.
For Leonard, who was also at the event, the embassy was in attendance because of the importance of the project in fostering the economic development of Nigeria.
“It is an important day for the U.S. embassy to witness the expansion of one of the most innovative and enterprising American-Nigerian agribusinesses in Nigeria. The U.S. embassy is proud to consider Tomato Jos as a close partner in fostering the economic development in Nigeria.
“This country has limitless economic potentials and investment opportunities across a range of sectors but particularly in Agriculture. In my few months here in Nigeria I have seen that and I have seen the importance of Agriculture in driving the economic future of this country,” she said.
Earlier, Mehta, managing director of Tomato Jos thanked the state government for the support and encouragement given to the company in 2017 when they first moved to Kaduna.
She also thanked the Emefiele for driving President Buhari’s vision aimed at ensuring food security for the country.
She equally commended the community for hosting her while also thanking the U.S. government for the support which the company had enjoyed.
“The Tomato Jos Vision is very simple: Local production for local consumption and our goal is very clear: we want to create a middle class in rural Nigeria through the industrialization of agriculture. This groundbreaking is just the beginning and I am very proud to be part of a Nigerian success story,” she said.
The Tomato Jos Company had so far employed 2,500, and is expected to engage over 5000 more Nigerians at the completion of the processing plant.
The company has also earmarked N7 billion for investment within the next five years to fully scale up its operation in Nigeria.
It is also supporting farmers cultivating 3,000 hectares of land, sourcing 150,000 tons of tomatoes with a target of producing 10 percent of local consumption in Nigeria.