The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Arc. Sonny S.T. Echono, yesterday said that the country pay N16billion as import bill annually to make up for shortfall in local production of tomatoes.

Arc. Echono made this known at a workshop on the development and application of postharvest handling model for horticultural crops, organized by the Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Represented by Engr. Jatto Ohiare, a Director in the ministry, the Permanent Secretary said tomatoes have the highest priorities with domestic demand of 2.3 million tonnes but with national production of 1.8 million tonnes and wastage of over 750,000 tonnes annually.

He lamented that the horticultural sub-sector was faced with problem of processing and post-harvest handling but noted that government has taken measures to address the problem.

The Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, NOH Kyu-duk, was of the opinion that the workshop would help to improve Africa’s agricultural industry and strengthen relationships between Korea and African countries.

The Director General of the Korean National Institute of Horticulture and Herbal Science, Ko Kwan-dal, said the workshop would enable the 15 member countries of KAFACI to share information on postharvest handling to reduce postharvest losses of horticultural crops.