Tomato Jos has raised $4.2 million in a Series A round led by Goodwell Investments through Alitheia Capital, its West African partner, with participation from Acumen Capital Partners and Vested World, Quartz Africa reports.
The Serie A fund will likely be put to use in constructing own processing facility as it approaches the third stage of its operations in Nigeria; processing and mixing tomato paste for commercial consumption; the first and second stages likely being ramping up own production and teaching small holder farmers best practices in tomato production.
In her opening speech during the January 2020 groundbreaking ceremony of the Tomato Jos processing facility, Miss Mira Mehta, MD Tomato Jos stated, “The Tomato Jos vision is very simple. Local production for local consumption. And our goal is very clear. We want to create a rural class in rural Nigeria through the industrialization of agriculture.”
A key aspect of Tomato Jos’ operation in Nigeria has been to teach small holder local farmers best practices of multi-stage tomato production. Miss Mehta during interviews and media rounds always have held this process as sacrosanct.
This excerpt from a Quartz article enunciates why her focus on getting production right, is sacred.
“The importance of sustainable produce supply models is best captured by the struggles of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, whose tomato-paste factory had operations shuttered for over two years due to a price dispute with local farmers. Following a resolution of that dispute, the factory resumed operations last month with a processing target of 100 tons daily.”
According to Miss Mehta, part of her inspiration for starting the business, was seeing farmers dry their tomatoes on tarred highways since they lacked capital and tech to store and process the highly perishable product in and out of season.
Infact, a PWC report shows that Nigeria produces as much as it consumes (2.3 million tonnes) in tomatoes. However, it loses close to half of the produce in the value chain (1 million tonnes) due to lack of storage and processing.
Tomato Jos’ processing facility at full capacity, is slated to produce 150, 000 tons of Tomato paste per annum on a potential 400 hectares of farmland, about 10% of Nigeria’s domestic consumption. The facility will also employ 5,000 people, a 100% increase from the current 2, 500 people currently employed in the farm.
Tomato is an important food in a typical Nigerian kitchen, since it constitutes major ingredient for 100s of delicacies Nigerians eat every day.
According to the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, FAO estimates that Nigeria’s local demand for tomatoes is over 2.93 million metric tonnes with the local production being around 1.7m tonnes, leaving a deficit of 1.2 milliion, equivalent to 2.5bn dollars.
In his statement, the CBN Governor mentioned, “One of the items declared not valued for forex is tomatoes and tomato paste in which the import bill at the time was significantly contributing to the pressure on our FOREX reserves.”
Hence, while not discounting the profit motive for the Goodwell investment, there is another aspect of this investment which is seldom talked about; the social impact.
Because of this investment, local farmers in Igabi, Kaduna State will have a factory to process their tomato fruits rather than take to the traditional and unsafe method of drying the fruits by the roadside. Also, their kids will feed healthily, go to school and dream big as their production, sales and income increase.
Furthermore, Nigerians will enjoy more options in tomato paste consumption, and the government will save FOREX, moreso at a time like this when there is a visible strain on the country’s foreign revenue generation.
Godwin Emefiele put this succinctly in the January 2020 Tomato Jos processing facility groundbreaking ceremony which had in attendance, US Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, Governor of Kaduna State Nasir El Rufai, the Chairman of FMN John Coumantaros who unofficially doubles as a mentor to Tomato Jos;
“What we are saying is that with your passion and interest and the support of government, you can create jobs, not only for yourself, but also create jobs for other people and be an example for other young people growing in Nigeria.”
This seemingly extends to others who help the fledgling food startup in any way, including funding.
“Thank you very much,” Mr Emefiele added.
If you enjoyed this article, then you would definitely enjoy this convivial review of Miss Mehta’s personality on and offline, as she builds Nigeria’s next big thing in the food and agricultural sector.