The tomato is a major vegetable crop that has achieved tremendous popularity over the last century. It is grown in practically every country of the world – in outdoor fields, greenhouses and net houses. The tomato plant is very versatile and the crop can be divided into two categories; fresh market tomatoes and processing tomatoes. In cases, world production and consumption has grown quite rapidly over the past 25 years.
Tomatoes, aside from being tasty, are very healthy as they are a good source of vitamins A and C. it also contains Lycopene; which is a very powerful antioxidant that can help prevent the development of many forms of cancer. Cooked tomatoes and tomato products are the best source of lycopene since the lycopene is released from the tomato when cooked. A raw tomato has about 20% of the lycopene content found in cooked tomatoes. However, raw or cooked tomatoes are considered the best source for this antioxidant.
Tomatoes are considered to be one of the most economically important crops of all those that exist in the world. Economically speaking, tomatoes are worth a tremendous amount of money because they give more yields. Tomatoes are also one of the main ingredients in hundreds of dishes and products that are sold in supermarkets throughout the world. Tomatoes are also a popular choice by people who wish to grow fruits and vegetables in their own gardens. Not only can they be used raw in salads, but they are also an essential part of many recipes as well as many produced products such as tomato ketchup and tomato paste.
Nigeria is currently the second largest producer of fresh tomatoes in Africa producing 10.8% of fresh tomatoes in the region. Globally, the country is the 14th largest tomato producer with 2.3 million metric tons in 2016. This account for a marginal contribution of 1.2% of the world’s output in 2016. Over the last decade, the production of fresh tomatoes in Nigeria has grown by 25% from 1.8 million metric tons to an estimated 2.3 million metric tons.
However, this growth has been primarily facilitated by continuous increase in the harvested area for tomatoes from 265,000 hectares to 668,292 hectares in the same period. Nevertheless, between 2006 and 2016, tomato yields have remained very low at an average of 5.47 ton/ha relative to the world average yield of 38.1 ton/ha. The uses of old seedling varieties, pest and weed invasion and low soil fertility have 6 contributed to the low tomato yield.
Nigeria is one of the largest consumers of vegetable in Sub-Saharan Africa with about 22kg per capita. Specifically, Nigerians consume an estimated 2.3 million metric tons of tomatoes annually, with tomato consumption per capita at 12kg in 2016.
Tomatoes have many advantages over growing other types of crops, such as:
- Their high yield which results in their high economic value.
- They have very high nutritional value with high levels of pro-vitamin A and C. As well as being ranked first on their nutritional contribution to a human’s diet.
- They are a short duration crop.
- They are very well suited for different cropping systems that are used on grains and legumes.
In conclusion, Tomatoes are regarded as a fruit in some areas and as a vegetable in others, but whichever way you look at it, tomato is a highly nutritious food ingredient used by every tribe in Nigeria in the preparation of many food. Its high demand has made it also a very lucrative business venture for individuals to go into. In time past, tomato varieties grown in the south west had dominance over all the other varieties in the market, but as the economy of the country expanded and the market for the globe looking type of tomato grown in the Northern part of the country became too small as a result of low consumption rate, the variety started gaining dominance in the southern market. Overtime this variety has dominated the Nigerian market.