Dangote’s Basket of Smashed Rotten Tomatoes

BY Emma Adoghe——–

Aliko Dangote, the President of Dangote Group, is one of the rare breed of industrialists who commands my respect.DANGOTE AND TOMATOES

And it isn’t because he vaulted into the number one position as Africa’s richest man. Rather, my approval is recognition of his understanding that Africa’s redemption is firmly rooted in her self-sufficiency through industrialization. All else is nothing but “shadows and dust”.

One of his recent ventures – Dangote Tomato Processing Factory in Kadawa, Kano State, underscores his passion to explore potentials that intensifies the trajectory to self-reliance, especially in consumer goods. Tomato paste – a gooey dense paste made from fresh tomato fruits, is a staple of Nigeria’s runaway acquired taste for foreign foods. And the cost is significant.

As the largest importer and consumer of tomato paste in Africa, a weighty slice of the country foreign purse is handed over to indulge this habit. Understandably, the need to secure this market niche is an attractive prospect for some Nigeria businesses for reasons beyond patriotic concerns.

Dangote Tomato processing venture, although a commendable project, appears to suffer from a deficient supply projection; viability of supplies may have slipped through the cracks of reality in the mad rushed to set up shop. As recent as a few weeks ago, the onslaught of a common pest known as “Tuta Absoluta” completely shut down the entire tomato industry across the country (Dangote Tomato processing factory included), and decimated the local consumer market, with prices shooting up 5,000% for a basket of tomatoes. These stark situations exemplify the need to rethink strategies for the supply chain of raw tomatoes to factories.

Maintaining a seamless conveyor of raw materials to factories is an elemental production task that can keep most production managers sleepless. Agro-allied industries supply chain are especially sensitive to disruptions as their raw materials are far more reactive to whims of weather, pest or crop diseases compare to inanimate minerals. Gratefully, modern technology and smarter strategies globally have evolved to ensure these disruptions are minimized or eliminated completely.

Today, the tomato industry sidesteps the vagaries of poor weather, pest, diseases, or other undesirables, by using greenhouses – hundreds of acres of controlled environment, that ensure all year supply of tomatoes. According to the New York Times, a 42 acres greenhouse facility in Madision, Maine delivers one million tomatoes every week, come rain, snow or sunshine outside while a similar facility spans over 318 acres in Arizona. Even these massive commercial greenhouses are considered puny compared to the massive 1,600 acres commercial greenhouse facilities in Leamington, Ontario – Canada! Or the greenhouse “city” of Almería, in Andalucía, Spain with over 49,000 acres greenhouses.

That’s enough tomatoes to keep Dangote Tomato Processing Factory running uninterrupted for a hundred years! Before the take-off of tomato processing factories, tomatoes growers in Nigeria routinely complained of lack of storage facilities and spoilage due to excess capacity. However, the projected tonnages of tomatoes that cultivators had promised to deliver for processing to the tomato industry across the country have since fallen short of target. More worrisome is the fact that these “producers” lack capacity to overcome trite agricultural challenges in the cultivation cycle. Issues of drought, access to fertilizer, pest or diseases have proven superior to their best efforts at bountiful harvest.

I have posited often that there is nothing wrong with Nigeria but Nigerians. In both private and public sectors, our productive strategies, though exceedingly detailed, encapsulate perilous flaws. To further complicate matters, implementation adds a stewed flavor to an already knotty issue. We usually put the cart before the horse, and demand full speed ahead! As a point in consideration, the recent proliferation of tomato paste factories has seen a hurricane of businesses going into the tomatoes processing, without a clear path to adequate raw material supply chain in their business plan. A recipe for disaster.

Because compensating structures are weak in Nigeria’s business ecosystem, a minute upset in the value chain can lead to a seismic upheaval or collapse of an entire business. Alternatives are mostly lacking or unattainable. For instance, if you depend on ‘independent’ power generation (Generator) to power your business, you had better have a second idle Generator as backup, with the commercial electricity a distant third backup because its reliability is suspect at any time.

For Tomato processing factories, attention to sustaining the supply chain appear weak from onset.

Take British American Tobacco (BAT) Nigeria for example. One can hazard a guess that if their entire raw material supply chain is not retailed solely with local farmers, they would have been out of business by now. Chiefly, an end-to-end engagement guarantees that they control every aspect of the supply chain from owning the farms to marketing of the finished product.

The burgeoning tomato puree industry in Nigeria must establish their own commercial greenhouse acreage farms that will guarantee an interrupted supply of raw materials – tomatoes, all year round. Commercial Greenhouse technology involves the use of large enclosure of transparent (glass, fiberglass or plastics) and climatic regulators, to grow commercial crops at optimal conditions.

Similarly, Dangote Tomato Processing and his co-travelers in the tomato industry must own, and/or immerse their resources in developing the farming of tomatoes to guarantee an all year round supply. Anything else is a recipe for failure or madness by another name.

Emma Adoghe

Miami, FL ,

May 23, 2016

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