Tomatoes are some of the most important cooking ingredients in Nigeria. Ninety per cent of our food is never complete without tomatoes. We use them in cooking stews, soups, salads, portages, and virtually every food imaginable in the land. They go with everything, so well that none of our traditional foods ever reject tomatoes. This report explains how to start lucrative tomato farming in Nigeria.

Benefits of Farming Tomatoes

Health – This wonderful fruit berry is an excellent source of a good amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene. The deep redness of tomatoes means they are a very good source of antioxidant agents. They are also a powerful source of vitamin E, which enhances the health and sharpness of the eyes. You can never go wrong with tomatoes as far as nutrition and health are concerned.

Profit – The market is always there for tomatoes in Nigeria. So why not plant them? For a product that is consumed by close to 200 million people, no amount you produce is ever going to be enough. In 2012, Nigeria imported 65,809 tonnes of processed tomatoes worth over N11.7 Billion. That was in addition to the massive tonnes produced locally in the North.

Those numbers have increased in recent years. Tomatoes alone take out over N100 billion annually from Nigerians!

What exactly are Nigerians doing that billions of naira have to go to other countries’ economies for a product that does very well on Nigerian soil? This is a question we need to ask ourselves as we prepare for this year’s farming season.

If you have N3 million and you invest it in tomato farming this season, you will double that investment within nine months.

How To Grow Tomatoes

Tomato farming is very simple. Anyone can do it in any capacity, either in the backyard or in commercial quantity. Growing tomatoes is much more rewarding than you could ever imagine. They can be grown year-round, especially in places like Kano where there is an irrigation system specifically made for it. In other places, it is best cultivated during the rainy season.

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Step 1: Pick up The Best Species

The improved yield species is the best. In this case, I will recommend the Roma variety. What makes the Roma species very unique is its long shelf life, hard back, and low water content which enables it to last longer after harvest.

The Roma tomato known for its size and redness. It is very popular in Nigerian markets. This species can be used both for canning and producing tomato paste. It is also commonly found in supermarkets in some countries like the United States. Roma tomatoes are also known as Italian tomatoes.

Step 2: Prepare The Nursery

This can be done around March/April when the rain is just beginning in most parts of the country. You can use your backyard for the nursery or any other piece of land that is suitable for it. Tomatoes do very well in most soil types in Nigeria but better in black loose loamy soil. Prepare the ground by clearing the grasses and rubble. Loosen the soil with a hand trowel and hoe.

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and spread them on the prepared soil. You can cover them with dry grasses to prevent the loss of moisture from the soil and stop birds, ants and fowls from eating off the tomato farming seeds.

Within 5-7 days you will see them germinating. Wait about another five days before you remove the dry grasses to allow for proper growth. Leave them for another month before transplanting.

Step 3: Transplant to The Garden/Farm

The final journey will be moving them to the permanent farm where they would grow to maturity and production.

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If your farm is so big that you can’t do the transplanting alone, hire labourers according to your need. You need to be careful with the tender plan to avoid breaking it. Transplant is best done with hands for better results.

Open the soil with a piece of small wood, insert the seedling into the hole and cover it with loose soil. A tomato plant is very tender and fragile. It is best transplanted the same day you uprooted it from the nursery to avoid dehydration and fatigue.

Step 4: Weed and Apply Fertilizer

Two months after the transplant, it will be time for weeding. Hire labourers to do the weeding while you supervise to ensure that your tomato plants are not damaged during the process of removing weeds.

Use fertilizer that supplies those vital nutrients – N-P-K ratio fertilizer can be very good for tomatoes. After the first weed, it will be time to apply fertilizer to help replenish the soil nutrients taken by the weeds. To grow successfully, tomatoes need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, calcium, and magnesium, along with other trace minerals. It’s always best to have your soil tested to check for nutrient levels and pH level.

Step 5: Harvest Your Tomatoes

Tomato is harvested in batches. The moment you start harvesting, you’ll continue on a weekly basis till the end of the season. Usually it will keep producing till the dry season when the plant will die off due to the scorching heat.

The first harvest starts within three months after planting. That means if you plan by April, you should be expecting your first harvest to start by June/July. From then, it will continue till November/December.

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Step 6: Market Your Tomatoes

It is important to prepare your marketing well ahead of harvesting. Look for who or where to supply the product. This is because tomato is a perishable product unless you have a built storage system.

Mile 12 is the major market for fresh tomatoes and other vegetables in Lagos. It’s purely dominated by Northerners who major in this farming, harvesting cash over the years. Why? 90% of vegetables consumed in Lagos are brought in from the North. Virtually nothing is produced in the South West, South East and South South. Lagos alone has over 15 million people consuming tomatoes almost on a daily basis. So, you can see the potential in the farming business.

There is a need for smart entrepreneurs to see the opportunity for big business and big money in this sector. We have gotten to the point where we need young savvy entrepreneurs to break into this sector and start producing and delivering quality, hygienic tomatoes at very affordable prices.

The mass market remains the key to success in agribusiness and I would rather sell 1,000 baskets a day for N2,000 each than sell just 100 baskets a day for N5,000 per basket. The money is in the mass market and we need to start seeing it that way and working that way. Produce more, sell cheaper, and make more money.

If you start preparing now for this venture, you will harvest cash all season. Feel free to ask questions using the comment section and contribute your knowledge to help us all grow in this tomato farming business.