Stakeholders tackle Tomato post harvest losses

Forty-five Nigerians and global business leaders in the country’s agriculture industry met last week in Lagos, to find market-led solutions to the post-harvest losses in the country’s tomato value chain.Nigeria is Africa’s second largest producer of tomatoes, producing nearly 2 million tonnes annually, yet up to 40 per cent of the crop never makes it to market, impacting food security and smallholder farmers’ incomes.

This prompted the workshop, organised by the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), in partnership with Rockefeller Foundation’s Yieldwise initiative, the workshop, “Making Markets Work: A Private Sector Workshop On Reducing Postharvest Loss and Unlocking Potential In The Nigerian Tomato Value Chain,” held on November 1 and 2, sought to lay the foundation for stronger partnerships between companies to catalyse effective collaboration to achieve value chain efficiencies and address gaps and bottlenecks.“IGD partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise initiative for this action-focused workshop to bring together African private sector perspectives to find innovative and practical solutions to minimise crop losses and to build an efficient, productive food chain,” said Helen Mant, IGD Senior Advisor.

Mant leads IGD’s participation in the Yieldwise initiative to promote private sector engagement and identify market-led approaches to reducing post-harvest loss in targeted value chains.

By convening key value chain actors, workshop participants recognised the need for stronger business linkages and cross-sector partnerships and alliances across Nigeria’s tomato industry to cut post-harvest losses.

Market-led solutions put forward by participants would involve connecting aggregated smallholder farmers to structured market demand, unlocking access to PHL-reducing technologies and finance, and influencing key actors to prioritise investments in loss prevention.

Business leaders at the workshop stressed the importance of building an integrated value chain in the tomato industry, noting that to date, most stakeholders in the value chain have been working in silos rather than collaboratively.

Mira Mehta, founder and CEO of Tomato Jos, who agreed with this, emphasised that smallholder farmers and processors must work together to meet local market demands and scale the local tomato industry.

“It will take two to three years to get smallholder farmers ready to go and then also to get the processing facilities prepared to produce on the scale that is needed to meet demand in Nigeria. We need to be doing the work to get the system in place in the meantime,” said Mehta.

Other key topics discussed at the workshop were; expanding access to high quality seeds and other inputs for smallholder farmers to achieve higher yields; bio-safety, standards and certifications; and greater access to finance and financial incentives for smallholders.

During a “shark tank” style session, eight participants shared solutions to address challenges in the value chain, including railway transport, cold chain solutions, solar water pumping, centralised mini-grids for pre-processing, mobile agro-tech solutions, and collapsible plastic crates.

Creating an enabling environment for Nigeria’s tomato industry to achieve business growth and reduce post-harvest losses were raised at the workshop. Participants in a policy session identified their top policy obstacles to business growth and bolstering the incomes of smallholder farmers, and collectively committed to addressing these issues through the development of a private sector-led, multi-signatory policy paper to be shared with top Nigerian policy makers.