Tomato is one of the most demanded essential cooking ingredients in Nigeria and every other parts of the world. The majority of Nigerian cuisine requires tomato to be able to make it. Tomatoes are used for cooking stews, soups, salads, portages, and all types of food in the country. Practically, every form of Nigerian food can be cooked with tomato.
Why Tomato Farming in Nigeria Is Essential
It is vital for Health
Tomato is fruit that belongs to the classes of fruit known as berry. It is a good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Tomatoes are deep red in color when ripe and can be used as antioxidant like red pepper. It is as well a great source of vitamin E and helps to boost clear sight and overall health of the eyes. Tomatoes contain a lot of health benefits.
The market and the profit margins are high
There is always a ready market for tomatoes in Nigeria. There is no amount of tomato that is produced that will be out of market demand with the huge Nigerian population.
Nigeria farmers are currently producing less than the amounts of tomatoes demanded all over the country. This has led to importation of processed tomatoes into the country.
In 2012, for example, Nigeria imported 65,809 tonnes of processed Tomato with a financial worth of more than N11.7 Billion. To be able to meet up the demand of the Nigeria teeming population and reducing importation, more and more people need to go into tomato farming in nigeria.
How To start Tomato farming in Nigeria
Tomato farming does not involve a complicated process. It can be started by anyone. You can start in a small scale and grow from there. It can be grown in the fields or at your back yards or even in the containers if you want to plant for domestic purpose and have no land.
Tomato farming is very lucrative and rewarding. It can be grown any time of the year especially with the help of irrigation system. If you don’t have proper irrigation system, it is best to engage in tomato farming only during the rainy season.
Start with good tomato species
For commercial farming it is best to choose the best specie. The roma specie is a good one. The roma tomato specie is very large and normally grows into a brightly colored red plum. This is the tomato specie that is mostly demanded in the Nigerian market. It can be utilized for tomato canning, eating fresh, used in the preparation of meals or made into paste.
The Roma tomato species are as well referred to as Italian tomatoes or Italian plum tomatoes.
It has a very long shelf life due to its hard back, and little water content.
The Nursery preparation
The nursery preparation can be planted around March and April, the start of raining season. You can make the nursery in your backyard or in any appropriate piece of land. Tomato thrives well in any type of soil but it does well in a black and loose loamy soil. You can carry out soil preparation by clearing the grasses and debris. Afterwards use the hand trowel and hoes to loosen the soil.
Take out the seeds from your chosen tomato specie and spread it on the soil you have already prepared. You can cover the nursery bed with some grasses to protect the soil moisture and stop predators like birds, ants, fowls and so on from feeding on the seed.
The seed would normally germinate around five to seven days. Five days after germination, remove the dry grasses to help the tomato grow well.
The last stage is the transplanting stage when you move the tomato from the nursery to the permanent bed where it will grow and mature and yield fruits.
If you have a large farm, you may hire laborers to help you. Be careful during this stage to avoid breaking the tender stem. To get the best result it is better to transplant with hand. You need to be careful with the tender stem to avoid breaking it.
Create a small opening on the soil with a small wood, place the seedling into the hole and cover up the hole with loses soil. Try to transplant as you harvest from the nursery. Do not let the seedlings harvested from the nursery to stay overnight to avoid dehydration and fatigue.
Weeding and fertilizer application
Weeding the farm should be done after two months of planting. You can hire laborers to do the weeding whereas you monitor their work to ensure that it is properly done and that no damage is caused to the tomato plants while they work.
The fertilizer application should be done after the first wedding. This will restore the soil nutrients that have been absorbed by the weeds. For proper growth, you tomatoes need adequate supply of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, calcium, and magnesium, together with a few trace minerals. It’s best to test the soil to check the levels of nutrient and the soil pH level. N-P-K ratio fertilizer is great for tomatoes.
After fertilizer and manuring, the next thing is to harvest, market and sell your produce.