Government slams 50% import tariff on tomato paste

Government slams 50% import tariff on tomato paste
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah (left) with Minister of State,Hajiya Aisha Abubakar,during a press conference on a new policy on Tomatoes in Abuja

The Federal Government has increased the tariff on importation of tomato concentrate to 50 per cent alongside an additional levy of $1,500 per metric tonne from May 7.

Under the new policy, the Federal Government classified greenhouse equipment as agricultural equipment in order to attract zero per cent import duty. It stopped the importation of tomato paste, powder or concentrate put up for retail sale; stopped the importation of tomatoes preserved otherwise by vinegar or acetic acid and restricted the importation of tomato concentrate to the seaports.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, said yesterday that the new measures would become effective 30 days after April 7 2017, when the ECOWAS secretariat was notified.

Reacting to the news, the President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Frank Jacobs said in as much as the association agrees with the government that backward integration is the sustainable way to go, there are some people who have invested on utilising concentrates for their production.

Enelamah explained that the policy seeks to increase local production of fresh tomato fruit required for fresh fruit consumption and processing; increase local production of tomato concentrate and reduce post-harvest losses.

Nigeria imports an average of 150,000 metric tons of tomato concentrate per annum valued at $170million mostly due to inadequacy in capacity to produce tomato concentrate. Current demand for fresh tomato fruits is estimated at about 2.45million metric tons per annum (MTPA) while the country produces only about 1.8million MTPA.

On his part, the Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, commended the move saying the policy would promote and encourage local production of tomato and the creation of more jobs in the tomato industry.

He, however, urged government to create a balance between the welfare of the people and the economic philosophy of economic nationalism in its policy, as there is a need to address major production bottlenecks like high cost of transportation, high energy cost, challenges of storage and processing of agricultural products, productivity issues, agricultural mechanization issues and many more that account for high food prices.

The Chairman of Conserveria Africana Limited (CAL), producers of ‘GINO’ and ‘POMO’ branded tomato pastes in Nigeria, Alhaji Francis Ogboro affirmed other stakeholders’ position that though the policy will hurt operators but the company will not relent in its backward integration agenda.The Chief Executive Officer, Erisco Foods Limited, Chief Eric Umeofia, said the policy is not new but it is a good one.

“The important thing is to implement the policy. Government should see to the implementation of the policy. If we support our industries, we will grow the economy and avoid people committing suicides.”

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