Dangote test runs mega tomato coy in Kano

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DangoteAfrica’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, may soon end perennial tomato glut with a giant factory that will boost domestic output and create jobs.

For the past five years, the company has been working to build a $20-million (18.4-million-euro) tomato processing plant outside the northern city of Kano.

It’s hoped the large factory, measuring 17,000 hectares of irrigated fields, will help by tapping a potential agricultural goldmine.

The country’s agriculture ministry puts annual current demand for tomato puree at 900,000 tonnes.

When the Dangote factory opens from next month, it will provide 430,000 tonnes of paste that is used widely in Nigerian dishes from jollof rice to fiery soups.

“Nigeria is such a huge market for tomato paste that we will find quite challenging to satisfy,” the factory’s general manager, Abdulkarim Kaita, told AFP.

“Already local tomato paste packaging companies have placed orders with us which we will have to work hard to satisfy.

“We are set to begin operations. We are only waiting for the tomatoes which are ripening in the fields.”

Nigeria grows some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes every year, making it the 14th biggest producer in the world.

But it’s forced to rely on imports of tomato puree, mostly from China, because of a lack of processing plants.

Dangote’s factory, built by Switzerland-based Syngenta, will directly employ 120 people and 50,000 farmers have been engaged to grow the tomatoes required for the process of making concentrate.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has provided technical assistance such as soft loans for seeds and fertiliser. The factory will then buy the produce at competitive rates, said Kaita.

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