Is sad that Nigeria is importing tomato paste worth billions of dollars yearly still yet, fresh tomatoes waste in hundreds of tonnes every day in our local markets. According to media report and what most bloggers have written about tomato production in Africa, Nigeria is the largest tomato producing country in Africa as of 2018/2019 seasons.
That might be true, but nobody can actually account accurately how many tonnes of fresh tomatoes that waste in our country Nigeria and continent Africa at large.
Those agencies that compute how many tonnes of fresh tomatoes that waste in our country usually fetch their figures from what they see in our popular markets and do not take into consideration other remote markets that are not easily accessible due to bad road network.
As a farmer who has trained thousands of rural farmers on vegetable production, I can confidently say “We don’t need more vegetable farmers”, we need processors of our farm outputs.
A lot of people get scared when they hear the word “Processing” because these words forced our subconscious mind into thinking about “Sophisticated machines”, I understand the fear.
Processing generally involves the use of machines to transform the natural state of a commodity into a much valuable state and it involves huge financial commitment.
As startups, money is always a challenge. You have limited funds to put all the essential equipment on the ground to kick start a modern business venture.
Now understand this, “You’ll never have enough money at your disposal as a starter to finance that business you have in your head, therefore, start with what you have at hand”.
Processing of fresh tomato into a paste, packaging neatly in eye-catching nylons or bottles is a dream of everyone who taught about venturing into the processing of tomato.
Great dream in your head, congratulations.
But in your hands, your bank account balance is insufficient to birth this glamorous product.
Therefore, let’s start with what you have at hand.
I will sell this “already researched” business format to you today; all you need is a speedy strategy on how to lunch your tomato product into the market, turn it into a global brand, and make money too.
I conducted this research in 2019 and believe it is still useful not minding the year you are reading this article. The idea so to help my fellow farmers control tomato wastage which will increase their earnings.
The idea is not new but I’m sure it might be new to you. Below is the best/cheapest aisle to control fresh tomato wastage without using sophisticated equipment but making use of cheap materials already at your fingertips.
Dry Tomato Powder.
This dried tomato might not be new to others, but the majority are reading about this for the first time, therefore I encourage you to give 15 minutes of your time and it will become clear to you. Whenever you see tomatoes wasting, I know you always think and say within yourself “How do I turn these tomatoes into paste?”
But today, I want you to think about “How to turn fresh tomatoes into powder” using cheap materials.
During my research, I saw hundreds of numerous powder tomato products over the Internet and most we’re not products from Africa, the Chinese guys were producers of this powder.
A few were from other African countries and couldn’t see one from Nigeria. Remember, Nigeria is said to be the largest tomato producing country in Africa? But will import the highest amount/quantity of tomato paste in Africa.
Not to verbose this article, Let’s see how we can duplicate what other guys are doing to preserve their tomatoes. We will discuss tomato production later…
What you need?
You need fresh tomatoes and a solar dryer to commence the business of powder tomato, and below is a sample of the handmade solar dryer.
Photo credit: Kathryn Burnham
The equipment used in constructing a solar dryer can be gotten easily and a good Carpenter can duplicate this for you, download the image and saw to them. The frame of the box is made of wood, and wooden legs to keep the box off the ground. The top is white plastic, which lets in the sun’s rays. The bottom of the box is metal sheeting, to reflect the sun rays back inside. The sides and the trays are made from mesh strung between parts of the wooden frame.
Why use a solar dryer?
I know most rural farmers in Nigeria do dry their tomatoes openly but the demerit is this, sand, stones, leafs, and other harmful particles depose on the openly sliced/dried tomatoes, therefore making it unhealthy for human consumption and it discouraged consumption.
Domestic animals like Cow, Goat, and Sheep equally eat up dried tomatoes display openly.
But using closed solar dryer like the one above, undesirable particles cannot gain entrance to the net, therefore, your tomato remain neat and free of sand.
It takes 3-7 days to dry your tomato, after that, you will grind it into powder form, package it in nylons or bottles, and sell. One great advantage is, the tomato maintains its red colour, taste, and aroma when cooked. The temperature in the dryer gets 15-35 degree hotter than the outside temperature, therefore, making drying faster.
Note: You can package the dried tomatoes into nylons without grinding, it will sell too.
Would people accept to use powder tomatoes?
The answer is “YES”. I contacted some restaurants while I was conducting a market survey and they told me that, dried tomato gives that better stew quality than the fresh one. So, what they usually do when preparing stew is to mixed fresh tomato paste with the dried one to increase the thickness of their stew.
If you embrace the system of preserving our tomato into powder form, it will control wastage in Nigeria and also be a source of income to you. Here, sophisticated machines are not needed to commence operation, you can carry out the operation in your kitchen using simple tools.
Note that, your oven at home can equally be used for this purpose. All you have to do is, slice, add a little salt, and hydrate the fresh tomato.
After reading this article, never allow tomatoes to waste in Nigeria again, reading this content should not be a waste of your precious time. I know you might not want to do the business side of the powder tomatoes, but educate others with this piece of information, let us control wastage in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Take Action Now…