NIGERIA – Tomato Jos, Nigerian agro-processing company focused on the local production and processing of tomatoes has diversified its operations venturing into the grains sector.

Under the new move, the private equity-backed, fast-growing social enterprise is seeking to boost the productivity, incomes, and resilience of maize and soybean smallholder farmers in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna State.

The company has received a N494 million (US$1.2 million) co-investment grant from the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) to facilitate the venture.

According to Trade Hub, Kaduna State is home to approximately 1.3 million farming families, many of whom farm both maize and soybean, two of Nigeria’s staple crops.

However, domestic production of these grains is failing to meet the high market demand because of several limitations faced by farmers, including outdated farming techniques, limited awareness of the market’s quality demand, and a lack of funds to improve their farming practices.

To address these challenges, Tomato Jos will leverage its grant and approximately N3.3 billion (US$8 million) of private funds to launch a 3-year maize and soybean out grower project in northern Nigeria.

The project will benefit 4,000 smallholder farmers who will work as out growers (also known as contract farmers) with Tomato Jos. Sixty percent of the out growers will be women and at least 40 percent youth.

“Leveraging private investments to finance smallholder farmers is key to driving inclusive economic growth in Northern Nigeria,” says Mira Mehta, founder of Tomato Jos. “We are proud to partner with the Trade Hub on this innovative project.”

The 4,000 smallholders will be trained on modern farming techniques to ensure their crops’ quality and increase their productivity.

As many smallholders currently lack the capital to fully run their farm, loans will also be offered. These loans, combined with a guaranteed offtake of the crops through Tomato Jos, will provide a much-needed financial backstop to the smallholders, particularly for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through these efforts, smallholders’ will be able to produce 3,600 metric tons of maize by the third year of the project, and 400 metric tons of soybean.

The co-investment will also be used to assist Tomato Jos in improving its operations and productivity.

The company will expand its storage capacity for grains, source improved inputs for greater yields, and increase its model farm and out grower programs to cover more locations for maize and soybean farming.

Tomato Jos will also develop its mobile and cloud technology platforms for data capturing, farm monitoring, and improved communication.

“Nigeria has seen its outputs of maize and soybean decline in recent years and efforts to counter this have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thus, it is vital to assist companies such as Tomato Jos to help farmers increase production of these two staple crops and support food security,” says Karl Littlejohn, Acting Chief of Party for the Trade Hub.

The Trade Hub’s partnership with Tomato Jos builds on its other recently launched partnerships in Nigeria, such as ones with PYXERA Global and Thrive Agric, also focused on increased maize and soybean production.

The financial backing comes a year after the agribusiness firm, completed its US$4.2m Series A funding round led by Goodwell Investments, via its West Africa partner Alitheia Capital with participation from Acumen Capital Partners and VestedWorld.

The funding was channelled towards spearheading its transition to the next stage of growth which will entail the processing and distribution of tomato products.

Tomato Jos’ growth plans include the installation of a drip irrigation system and a processing plant that can produce 24 tons of finished products per day.

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