Farmers often times are confronted with challenges of producing for and supplying to their customers vegetables all year round because of the nature (seasonality) of the vegetables, some of these vegetables are warm-seasoned while others are cold-seasoned. Nevertheless, farmers will have to wait for the next growing season when there are enough rainfall and other favorable climatic conditions. Another challenge farmer faces is the issue of disease attack. These trends have caused a decrease in farmers’ production (both in quantity and quality) and income. Vegetables are herbaceous, short seasoned and surface feeder plants requiring intensive care. They are grown for their leaves, roots or fruits. Examples of Vegetables are Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, Onions, Garlic, Carrots, Egg plants, Spinach, Melon, Cabbage, Green beans, Sweet Corns, Watermelon, Fluted Pumpkin,Lettuce, etc. People consume vegetables on daily basis because of its relevance in human diet and this has necessitated an increasing demand for vegetables in Nigeria. There is usually a noticeable scarcity of vegetables during dry season in Nigeria, because of this, few farmers and sellers still remaining in business take advantage of this scarcity and use this opportunity to leverage their income by increasing the price. Most of tomatoes consumed in western and southern part of Nigeria come from Northern Nigeria. 49 percent of tomatoes consumed in Lagos come from Northern Nigeria.
A new technology known as Green House Technology has been found useful in supporting continual production of healthy and abundant vegetables. This green house technology ensures that vegetables are grown and nurtured under controlled environment. Moreover, growing tomatoes in green houses reduce disease and pest attack, damage by external factors and increase yield. The tomatoes produced under green houses had a longer shelf life than those produced in the open field. This technology has been tested and proved to improve sustainable income generation, job creation and food security in various parts of Nigeria. Currently, this technology is being used to grow high value vegetables such as Tomatoes and Sweet Pepper in Lagos and Ogun State. Lagos and Ogun state Government have adopted this technology
in an effort to achieving food security and employment generation for the young Agropreneurs in the state. Lagos state Government under the administration of Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) established Green House in Aranga, Epe, to mitigate periodic shortages of Vegetables Products and checkmate any threat that may be posed by major suppliers of the products outside the state. Similarly, the Governor of Ogun state, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has recently established Green House for Vegetable production in Kotopo, Abeokuta in order to engage youths in productive and profitable employment and as well as make the state self-sustaining in Food production. Both Governments have promised to provide conducive investment climate for would-be investors. This statement was re-affirmed during a two days Ogun state Investors’ Forum, 2014 held in Abeokuta, tagged, ”Agriculture and Urban Development”.
Green House Technology is an effort to add value to agricultural production. Wulasha Amina, a female greenhouse tomato farmer in Auta ba leifi, Abuja courtesy of YOUWIN Grant, gave a clear distinction between open field and greenhouse tomato production. Tomatoes are mostly produced in open field and greenhouse is still relatively new.
Open field is cheaper to produce as you will not need any tunnel. It can be done by anyone as it is the practice of most tomato farmers. Most farmers have biotechnical skills and do well. Anyone can start tomato farming in their backyards. It is really inexpensive and is a fruit that everyone enjoys. However, it is controlled by seasons. Raining season is particularly not favourable for open field productions as the tomatoes tend to abort themselves due to the rain. Therefore, production for open field will last at mist for most. However, for greenhouse, you can farm all year round. You control all factors of production, you choose what you want. The indeterminate variety in greenhouse is sometimes called the vine variety since they must be supported. They grow for up to 8 months producing an average of 15kg per plant (I am been modest here because with good practices, some farmers have recorded up to 25kg per plant). Also, depending on the price, if you have a tunnel of 8m by 24m (containing 480 plants), and you sell it for say N400 per kg, you will make an average of N2,000,000 or more.
That means in a year, you should get back your investment on the greenhouse. A small tunnel (8m by 24m) from Dizengoff Nig. Ltd. costs about N1,100,000, you will need a borehole, and then installation. Tomatoes from greenhouse have a shelf life of 21 days. That means that you can pluck it and keep it in room temperature for 21 days which is good news when you need to transport the produce. It is tastier and more fleshy than the open field variety. The biggest disadvantage of greenhouse tomatoes are that the tunnels are expensive which also translates in the cost of the produce so greenhouse tomatoes are mostly for supermarket consumption or high brow parts of town.
I am in Abuja and selling wasn’t so hard. I got a superstore that mopped up all my produce but it is something you have to do before the time of harvest. I can boldly say that the market is inelastic. We all can farm tomatoes and it will still not be enough for Nigerian consumption. Most people farm but don’t market well, it is sad to note that 70% of tomatoes perish and the farmers lose all their products and remain perpetually poor. You must count the cost before you plough your grounds for large scale farming” advised, Wulasha.
The major constraints facing tomato production are; Ready market; Lack of knowledge and technical expertise; Pest and diseases and Middlemen. Farmers suffer but the middle men make all the profit and this is not just a tomato problem but all agricultural produce. We need to insist on eating the fruit of our labour.
Agropreneur willing to adopt and invest into this technology will require the following;Land; Green House; Drip Irrigation system; Quality Vegetable Seeds from reputable source; Knapsack Sprayer; Fertilizers and Agro-chemicals; Protective Equipment (Overall, Respirator and Gloves), Nursery set, Plastic Crates, Basket, Weighing Balance/Spring Balance, Wheel Barrow, Shovel, Hand Rake, Hand Trowel and Shed.
It is important to get necessary training and agronomic technical support from the technology supplier on proper management of Green House technology. To make significant profit from this technology, it is imperative to add value to the product of this technology, this can come in form of product branding and packaging. More importantly, target market should be identified before delving into this business.
Ayodele Farinde is an agribusiness, greenhouse and organic agriculture expert.
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