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Tomato Jos Factory groundbreaking ceremony holds today in Kaduna

All roads lead to Kaduna, the Kaduna State capital today, Monday, January 27, 2020 for the epoch making groundbreaking for the operational headquarters of Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited.

The feat is coming after several other tomato producing factories had tried and operationally went into coma due to issues bordering on apparently failed arrangements between farmers and the companies.

However, the story of the Tomato Jos dream began in 2008, when Mira Mehta encountered her first tomato market glut in Northern Nigeria.  Farmers had lined the roads with tomatoes in an effort to dry and preserve them, because prices were at an all-time low.

Tomato Jos Mira
Mira Mehta

Nigerian farmers produced 65% of the tomatoes grown in West Africa, but paradoxically, it was also the largest importer of tomato paste in the world.  It just didn’t make any sense – why import all that paste when Nigeria already grew so many tomatoes?  This was clearly a huge problem, but it also seemed like a huge opportunity.

However, six years later, Mira Mehta, the Bombay, India born co-founder and Managing Director of the Tomato Jos Company, finally decided to stop dreaming and start acting.

She teamed up with co-founder Shane Kiernan to launch Tomato Jos: a for-profit social enterprise whose mission is to make farming profitable and sustainable for smallholder farmers.

In late 2014, the team set up operations in Panda, Nasarawa State, a few hours outside of Jos, and started farming.  The company weathered more than a few storms during the first growing season, battling everything from tomato viruses to water shortages to a virtual shutdown of operations during the 2015 election period.

Business Hilights Northern Nigeria Bureau chief gathered that between 2015 and 2019, the co-founders continued to engage local farmers with world class training and empowerment which today, grew the group to over 20 employees with a strong readiness to revive the wasted potential of 200,000 tomato farmers.

Tomato Jos baskets
Partnering Tomato Jos farmers sorting their products ahead of supplies

In an interview, the lead dreamer, Mehta said “We believe in the dream more than ever.  Our model hasn’t changed – we still help smallholder farmers to grow excellent tomatoes, and this spring we will use those tomatoes to make high-quality tomato paste.

“The farmers who partner with us receive support during the growing season, and are guaranteed a fair, consistent price when their crops are ready for harvest.  And once our product hits the market, the consumers will get to eat fresh, delicious tomato paste while supporting the Nigerian economy.

According to her, “Our vertically integrated operation had succeeded in empowering  farmers through three business lines including vis: Farm and agricultural center with farmer education and bundled inputs to help smallholder farmers grow and harvest crops more efficiently;

Logistics and supply chain support to navigate the ‘last mile’ to smallholder farms and safely bring produce to the processing facility; and Food processing and packaging facility that prepares and brands finished goods for distribution in the domestic market. Find out more about us and our triple-bottom business line.

Giving further insights on today’s groundbreaking ceremony in Kaduna, Mehta said in a social media sponsored broadcast that “My name is Mira Mehta and I am the managing director of Tomato Jos farming and processing limited.”

“Tomato Jos is a leading agricultural company in Nigeria, located I Kaduna state. We run a world class commercial farm.

“We help hundreds of small holder farmers transform from subsistent growers into commercial producers.

Dangote Tomato Katsina
L-r: The Executive Governor, Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari and Group President/CE, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, at the official signing and handing over ceremony of Songhai Project to Dangote. Photo: Business Hilights

“Together with our farmers, we grow Maize, Soya, Wheat and of course Tomatoes. Over the next twelve months, Tomato Jos will start up and start to operate a tomato processing factory with 85 tonnes per day capacity, which would produce high quality Tomato paste for Nigerians everywhere.

“I am very pleased to invite you to the Tomato Jos factory ground breaking ceremony on January 27th at 9AM, here on our farm, Tomato Jos,” elated Ms Mira Mehta announced.