Tomato is one of the most consumed vegetables in not only Nigeria, but many other parts of the world.
It is used in cooking various kinds of foods including stews, salads, soups and jollof rice. Apart from the amazing taste it gives to our foods, tomatoes are also loved because of it’s numerous nutritional benefits.
It is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Tomatoes also help in enhancing the health and sharpness of the eye. The deep redness colour of the tomato also means that it is a good source of antioxidant agents.
How profitable is tomato farming in Nigeria?
To start with, the demands for tomatoes in Nigeria is very high. In fact, Nigerians consume over tons of tomato paste (over 1.5 million tons of fresh tomatoes). Nigeria is also the largest importer of tomato paste in Africa.
In 2012, we imported 65,809 tonnes of processed Tomato that worth over ₦11.7 billion. According to WealthResult.com, Nigerians spend over ₦100 billion annually on tomatoes. This is a very high amount, and it shows that no amount of tomatoes produced will ever be in excess.
Basics things you need to start a tomato farm
Before venturing into a tomato farming business, you’d have to make arrangements for the following things:
Choose a fertile land that won’t be to far from the market. In addition, you’ll also have a transportation medium for conveying your farm produces to the buyers.
• Tomato seeds:
This is another very important thing that shouldn’t be toyed with. The different varieties of tomatoes grown in the world generally are beefsteak, campari, cherry, grapes, oxheart, plum, pear, tom berries and globe tomatoes.
In Nigeria, the species can however classified with their local names, places of cultivation and shapes.
| Variety local name|| Place of cultivation|| Tomatoes shapes|
| 1.|| Beske (Ebira)|| Okene|| Round|
| 2. || Yoruba|| Agbara|| Round|
| 3.|| Yoruba|| Ogbomosho|| Round|
| 4.|| Hausa|| Zaria|| Oval ( pointed tip)|
| 5.|| Hausa|| Sokoto|| Oblong (banana shape)|
| 6.|| Hausa|| Sokoto|| Oval (shield-like)|
| 7.|| Hausa|| Sokoto|| Oblong|
| 8.|| Hausa|| Zaria|| Oblong|
| 9.|| Hausa (Scissors)|| Kano|| Oblong ( pointed tip)|
| 10.|| Hausa|| Kano|| Oval|
| 11.|| Tiwantiwa|| Kajola|| Oval|
| 12.|| Beske (Ebira)|| Okene|| Oval (folded-in base)|
| 13.|| Beske|| Kajola|| Round|
As a new farmer, I suggest you go for the Roma tomato because of its slender and firm nature. It is commonly used in Nigeria and has no objection with climate.
the recommended variety
• A nursery:
This is a portion of the land where the tomato plants are propagated, nurtured and grown before being planted in the main fields. You can either use the direct seeds planting method by planting directly on the nursery soil or make use of seed trays.
You can raise tomato seedlings through any of the following facilities:
| || Medium|| Features|| Recommendation|
| 1.|| Open field||Beds in the open fields are raised after the soil is loosen. It is advisable to do this type of nursery only when the natural conditions are favourable to plant growth and development|| It is mostly used during the dry season, but the farmers will need to apply pesticides to control insects and other pests that might be attack the crops|
| 2.|| Poly-tunnels||In the poly-tunnels, elevated raised beds covered with plastic. The plastic roofs will not only help in protect the seedlings from heavy raise, but will also help in the conservation of moisture and raising the temperature||This is for experts and big big time farm investments. Don’t try it as a beginner unless it’ll be managed by an expert|
| 3.|| Net house||This is a partially modified/controlled environment||This is useful for controlling the infestation of insects and other pests|
| 4.|| Greenhouse||The greenhouse is more like a controlled environment where structures are provided with adequate ventilation, irrigation and fertiliser application. In many of them, you’d also see facilities that help in regulating the temperature||Just like the poly-tunnels, this is for experts and big big time farm investments. Don’t try it as a beginner unless it’ll be managed by an expert|
Above are medium for raising the tomato facilities. Don’t go too far or beyond your budgets, any of the options are good, so far the seedlings will be protected from the harsh weather conditions.
• Disease/pest prevention and control:
You’ll also be mapping out ways of controlling your tomato plants from diseases and pests. Some common tomato pests and diseases that might attack your crops include:
– Bacterial canker
– Erinose mite
– Fusarium wilt
– Late blight
– Leaf miner/potato tuber mothBacterial wilt
– Plusia looper
– Red spider mite
– Rust mite
You can control the pests and diseases by:
– Always destroy the infected plants and dispose them away from the fields
– Practising crop rotation
– Practising of proper sanitation
– Use of chemicals
– Controlling drainage
Steps On How To Grow Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes is very easy, in fact anyone can do it, whether in commercial quantities or for personal consumption. It can also be grown round the year, so far there’d be an available irrigation system.
If not, you can still stick to the rainy seasons. If you’re growing it for commercial purposes, I’d suggest you get an artificial irrigation system for watering the crops.
Below are some tips you need to follow while growing tomatoes:
• Choose a specie to plant
There are improved varieties available in the market like the Roma tomatoes. The Roma variety is loved because of its size and redness of colour. Like I earlier stated, it also has a very slender and firm nature.
About its uses, the Roma varieties can be used for both canning and production of tomato pastes. It is commonly found in supermarkets in countries like the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Mexico. You’ll also see them in large quantities in the Nigerian markets. A paint rubber of the seed usually cost about ₦4,500.
About the shapes, Roma tomatoes are egg or pear-shaped and red when fully ripe. The vines fruit heavily, hence its popularity among gardeners who do a lot of home canning.
Since you’d be going into tomato farming for commercial purposes, it is advisable you go for the improved varieties instead of the local species of tomatoes.
• Nursery preparation
You can start preparing the nursery around March/April when the rain is just beginning in most parts of the country. While tomatoes do well in most soil types, experts advise you go for the loose loamy soil for the nursery.
First prepare the ground by clearing any grasses or rubble present, then you loosen the soil with a hoe or hand trowel.
When you’re done, remove the seeds from the tomato and spread it on the prepared soil, then cover with dry grass for proper growth. Covering it will also help in preserving moisture and protecting the crop from birds and other animals that might want to eat off the tomato farming seeds.
The seeds will start germinating withing 5 to 7 days. Wait for 5 days after the germination before removing the dry grasses to allow proper growth. Transplanting should be after a month.
At this stage, you’d be transferring the plants to the permanent farm where they’d grow till they mature. Depending on the size of your farm, you might have to hire some labourers to aid in the transplanting process.
While transplanting, you need to be careful with the tender plants to avoid breaking them. For better results, transplanting should be done with hands.
• Weeding/application of fertiliser
Weeding should take place after two months of transplanting. If you’re farm is big, you will have to hire some labourers to aid you while you supervise the whole process to ensure your plants are not damaged.
After the first weeding, you’ll have to apply some fertilisers to help replenish the soil nutrients taken by the weeds. Tomatoes need nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, potash and calcium, along with other trace elements to grow successfully.
The moment the skin of the tomato begins to appear red, it’s time to harvest them.
Carefully grip the fruit, and gently pull the plant holding the fruit with one hand and the stem with the other. Break the stalk that has formed above the calyx to help protect the bud.
Harvesting of tomatoes is done in batches, ie; the moment you start harvesting, you’ll have to continue on a weekly basis till the end of the season. The plants will keep on producing until the dry seasons when they’ll die off due to the scorching heat.
Tomato farming is very lucrative and you won’t have issues marketing your products. One thing you shouldn’t forget is that tomatoes are perishable products and should be distributed fast unless you have an already built storage system.
You can sell to traders at wholesale rates, ant they’d in turn, transport them to other locations for sales to the retailers and direct consumers.
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