Tomato farming in Nigeria

Tomato is one major vegetable that is daily consumed in Nigeria, Africa, and the world over. Every home uses tomato for stew, soup, jollof rice, and more.

Since tomato, just like every other essential commodity is consumed daily not just in Nigeria but in other African countries and the world over. With a population of about 200 million people in Nigeria, there is a need for more farmers in the Agricultural sector.

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You might also be surprised to know that some of the tomatoes we consume in Nigeria are imported from the Republic of Benin. I can vividly remember about a year ago when the federal government of Nigeria closed the borders to other neighboring African countries. The governments of those countries were pleading for our borders to be open so they could come with their farm produce to sell to us.

For too long we have depended on other countries for everything including food crops. This is a pointer to the fact that we need to wake up and start producing our own products.

If we can have a good number of people in the tomato farming business in Nigeria, we will have enough of these food crops. Because of our population, it’s important to have more farmers in Nigeria, as this will help boost our economy. With a sufficient supply of essential commodities like tomato, the rate of inflation will not be as high as it is now.

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Hence if you are thinking of an agric venture in Nigeria, why not make a decision to venture into tomato farming business? There is every indication that it will thrive, because we have what it takes, yes. We have the population

Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes

According to healthline.com tomato has a whole lot of nutrients. Below are some of the nutrients listed by Health Line.

The water content of tomatoes is around 95%. The other 5% consists mainly of carbohydrates and fiber.

Here are the nutrients in a small (100-gram) raw tomato

  • Calories: 18

  • Water: 95%

  • Protein: 0.9 grams

  • Carbs: 3.9 grams

  • Sugar: 2.6 grams

  • Fiber: 1.2 grams

  • Fat: 0.2 grams

You can check out healthline.com for more nutrition facts on  tomato

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Why you Should Consider Tomato Farming in Nigeria

Tomato farming in Nigeria is a very lucrative agricultural venture for any farmer. Nigeria needs to produce additional 500,000 metric tonnes of fresh tomato to meet the annual demand for local consumption, apart from those needed by industries that produce tomato paste in Nigeria.

This was disclosed by the executive director of the horticultural research institute (NIHORT), IBADAN, Dr. Abayomi Olaniya while declaring open a three-day training for about 50 youths on how to lucratively cultivate tomato and pumpkin (ugu) vegetable. Nigeria presently produces 1.8 million tonnes of tomato while the annual demand is 2.3 million tonnes.

So, if you are looking to go into agriculture, starting tomato farming in Nigeria could be one of your best options.

Steps to Starting Tomato Farming in Nigeria

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Tomato is mainly cultivated in the northern part of Nigeria. But you can still cultivate tomato in any part of Nigeria. You can start small and grow big if you don’t have the huge capital to start big. However, if you have the capital, below are the steps to start tomato farming in Nigeria.

  • You Need a Farm Land
  • Tomato seeds
  • A Nursery (for preparing the seed)
  • Transplanting
  •  Weeding, Disease prevention, and control

Procure a Farm Land

You need farmland to start a large scale tomato farming business in Nigeria. If you have a plot of land then you can make do with what you have. However, you can rent a hectare of land to get started if you don’t have one. Alternatively, you can collaborate with someone that has land and share profits with the person. This would help minimize the cost of production.

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Also, some state governments in Nigeria have mapped out agricultural programs to encourage prospective farmers. As such, you can find out from your state and local government about land use for agriculture, as that could be cheaper for you if you can have access to it.

Get the Right Variety of Tomato Seeds

Choosing the right specie of tomato is important for your business since the right tomato will mean more profit. Alternatively, you can cultivate two or more species if you have the money to do so.

Some varieties of tomatoes are: 

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Grape Tomato, Red BeefStreak tomato, Green beefstreak tomato, Cherry tomato, Cocktail tomato, Roma tomato, Heirloom tomato and Tomatoes in the vine.  These are some of the species of tomatoes.

You can also check out the complete guide to all tomato species here

How to Plant Tomato in Nigeria

Prepare the Nursery

Tomato is first planted in the nursery before transplanting to the main farm. For the nursery, you need to prepare potting soil for the containers that would house your seedlings during the nursery period before transplanting to the main garden. Ingredients commonly used in potting soil are peat, coir perlite, vermiculite, although others are used and the proportions vary hugely. For a more detailed guide on how to prepare potting soil for your nursery check out this article.

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To start tomato farming in Nigeria, you need pots for the nursery. Buy the number of pots or pales you need to for your nursery, fill pots with the potting mix you already prepared, make sure the mix is up to  2/3 of the pot. Place a pair of seeds on top of the potting mix cover the seeds with little soil, press down the soil with your fingers to enable the seeds get contact with the soil above to speed up germination.

Always check to know if the soil has enough moisture and sprinkle little water to prevent dryness. (please avoid sprinkling excess water so the seeds don’t get rot).

A temperature of about 6o to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is needed for quick germination. As a result, it is also important to create a warm and conducive atmosphere for the nursey. One of the ways to do that is to get heat lamps or mats to speed up germination. Some gardeners cover the lid of the pots with plastic cover but if you chose to do that, be sure to remove the covers as soon as they start germinating. This will prevent damping off – a fungal infection that kills seedlings due to moist air.

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Tomato seeds are always started indoors by using greenhouses – a building with a roof and sides made of glass, used for growing plants that need warmth and protection.

That does not mean you cannot start tomato farming in Nigeria if you don’t have money for a greenhouse. You can prepare a place at your backyard and cover with raffia and palm fronds and keep your pots and pales for nursery under.

Tomato seeds need a constant soil temperature of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is therefore important to start tomato farming from the nursery around March and April when the rainy season is just starting.

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Transplanting Tomato Seedlings

Now that you have sowed your tomato seeds and you see the seedlings standing out from the pots or pales you planted them. It’s time for you to free them from the pot to their permanent place in the garden.

To successfully do this, there are two things you need to do to protect them from the harsh climate condition outside namely: hardening off and preparing the soil.

Hardening Off

Hardening off means gradually introducing them to outdoors, to do this, you need a shed outside. This should be done over a 9 to 10 day period.

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On the first day, after procuring a sheltered place outside, where the seedlings can sit in filtered sun where they can be protected from the wind. Take them outside and leave them there for some hours. One option is to use a shade cloth above the clouds and on the wind side. Take them back inside.

On the second day, leave them outdoor for a little longer. Take them in and out for some time, for the next 5-6 days. Then leave them outside for the remaining 4 days keeping eyes on them to bring them in in case of any danger of wind.

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Tomato is ready for transplanting into the garden when the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall.

Preparing The Soil

Tomatoes need slightly acidic soil pH with a kit available at most garden centres.

Excessively acidic soil is treated by adding lime, while alkaline soil requires sulphur to lower the pH.

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The warmer the soil is, the faster they will grow.  And because during the spring, some waterlogged areas become too damp, it’s important to prepare your tomato beds a week or more before transplanting. You can begin the preparation of the soil, the same day you start the hardening off.

  1. Using a digging fork, dig the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches.
  2. Spread about 3 inches of compost over it and thoroughly mix it into the soil.
  3. Using a hard metal rake, form the loose soil into a low broad mound not more than 4 feet wide.

After the hardening off process and preparing the soil, it’s time to move your tomato seedlings to their permanent place. To do this, follow the steps below.

  1. Dig a hole in the middle of your tomato bed that is at least a few inches deeper than the depth of the pot the seedlings are in.
  2. Remove each seedling from its container and loosen the roots very gently.
  3. Hold the plants by the leaves, (be careful not to touch the stems) to transplant them. Protect the plant from cold wind.
  4. Plant tomatoes about 45cm apart leaving 75cm between the rows (avoid the temptation to plant the tiny seedlings closer together – overcrowding can contribute to the spread of diseases).
  5. Make sure you plant them deep with only the topmost leaves aboveground. This technique helps tomatoes in root establishment and wind resistance.
  6. Fill the soil firmly around the seedlings with your hands and give them their first watering.

Weed Your Tomato Farm/Garden and Apply Fertilizer

It’s important to use fertilizers to grow your crops if you are a commercial farmer.  To this end, you should weed your tomato garden to remove unwanted crops around your plant to allow it to grow well.

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I also advice you weed with your hands and be careful if you prefer to use a chemical weed control mechanism. This will prevent the death of plants as a result of chemicals coming in contact with the plants.

If you intend to use Mechanical methods to weed, it should be shallow and not too close to the plant to prevent damage to the plants.

After successfully weeding the farm, apply fertilizers. You can do all this in the first month after the transplant. This is to replenish the soil nutrients lost as a result of the weeds.

The fertilizer you use for your tomato depends on the current nutrient content of your soil. I advise that before you start fertilizing tomatoes, you carry out a soil test. If your soil is correctly balanced or not. If it is high in nitrogen, you should use a fertilizer that is slightly lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus, such as a 5-10-5 or a 5-10-10 mixed fertilizer. If your soil is slightly lacking in nitrogen, use a balanced fertilizer like 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.

For details on fertilizer click here

If you are not able to get a soil test done,  you can assume that you have a balanced soil and use the higher phosphorus tomato plant fertilizer.

Fertilizer should be applied after the first weeding. This is to help restock the soil nutrients taken or affected by the weeds.

How to Prevent and Control Pests

As with other crops, tomatoes also suffer from bacteria and fungal diseases:

Bacterial diseases of Tomato

  • Syringae leaf spot
  • Pith necrosis
  • Bacteria wilt
  • Bacteria stem rot and fruit rot
  • Bacterial spot
  • Bacterial canker of tomato
  • Bacteria speck
    Fungal diseases of tomatoes include but not limited to the following
  • Alternaria stem canker
  • Anthracnos
  • Alterneria stem canker
  • Black mold rot
  • Black root rot
  • Black shoulder
  • Buckeye rot of tomato
  • Charcoal rot
  • Corky root rot
  • Early tomato blight
  • Late tomato blight
  • Gray leaf spot
  • Cercospora leaf mold etc.

Below are some of the ways to prevent and control pests and diseases

  • Practicing crop rotation.
  • Always destroy infected plants and throw them away from the field.
  • Using registered chemicals.
  • Practicing of proper sanitation.
  • And controlling drainage.

Harvesting Your Tomatoes

The normal period for the maturity of tomato is about 2 to 3 months.  You should pick your ripe tomatoes according to size, color, and quality.

Storing Your Tomatoes

Because of the nature of tomatoes, it’s important to store your tomato in a cool place to prevent it from rot as excess heat could cause them to rot. Pack them in boxes or baskets before taking them to the market. As I said earlier. They should be stored in a cool room of about 12 degrees Celcius.

Marketing Your Tomatoes

As a commercial tomato farmer, it’s important to find out the markets you can sell your produce.

Remember from the beginning of this post, I mentioned why tomato farming in  Nigeria is lucrative. Tomato as an essential commodity has a huge market. So marketing your crops should not be a problem.

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As you wait for your tomato to mature, get back to the markets to create awareness and get prospective buyers. Find out the best  market/sellers to sell your tomatoes before harvesting. Because of its delicate nature, tomato cannot be stored for too long. So as a new tomato farmer, this is an important step to take to successfully sell out your products and make profit.

In conclusion, don’t just read this article and sit back without taking any action. If you think you can, then can. Take a bold step and do what you must do.

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