Prof. Goke Bodunde of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), has called on the federal government to enforce the ban clauses on various agricultural products, particularly tomato paste.
The Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Management, made this call while delivering a lecture entitled: “Unveiling the Beauty of an Un-forbidden Fruit” at the 59th Inaugural Lecture of the institute on Thursday in Abeokuta.
He said that some imported tomato paste contained up to 50 per cent starch before dilution in Nigeria, where an additional 15 per cent starch was often added.
“As a matter of fact, tomato is considered vital and almost inevitable in human nutrition which qualifies it as one “un-forbidden fruit.
Bodunde ascribed the low productivity in Nigeria to environmental and managerial factors, noting that these factors conspire to make Nigeria a producer of just two percent of the total world output of tomato fruits in spite of the huge total land area cultivated.
According to him, there are a number of abuses detrimental to human health in an attempt to make the product available on account of low production and the dietary compulsion of tomato in culinary use.
“This is the story of some of the tomato paste 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 tomato paste 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,” he said.
Speaking on the way forward, the don said that FUNAAB was endowed with huge human and material potentials that should promote interest in research along the tomato value chain.
According to him, this can make a difference in tomato availability in south western Nigeria.
Bodunde also called for investment in tomato canning industry by the private sector and government in Nigeria as well as the promotion of research-industry linkage.
“Research funding remains a huge limitation to agricultural development in Nigeria, and as such, relevant arms of government should treat agricultural research funding as a concurrent responsibility for Federal, State and Local Government tiers,’’ he said.