Prof. Alex Akpa, Director-General, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), says within a period of one year, Nigerians should expect high yielding tomato hybrid with long shelf life in the markets.
Akpa gave the assurance in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.
According to him, the losses incurred by farmers, traders and consumers due to how perishable tomatoes forced the agency to come up with the hybrid tomato project.
“We bring in the hybrids with no characteristics and then back-cross it with our local varieties,’’ he said.
The director-general said when this was achieved; it would still produce indigenous hybrid tomatoes, not only with long shelf life but also high-yielding.
“That’s what we are working on now; we already have the hybrid seeds and will start the back-cross in the next few weeks.
“So, within 12 months we should be able to have high-yielding long shelf life hybrid tomatoes in the market,’’ he said.
Akpa explained that their long shelf life of tomato project were of two versions.
He said the first was the fully genetically-modified tomatoes of which their scientists were presently in their laboratory collecting varieties from all over the country for analysis.
He however, noted that the fully genetically-modified tomatoes project would take up to 48 months or more, saying that was why they opted for the quicker second version of tomato hybrid.
Akpa said the need for long tomatoes shelf life could not overemphasised.
“The importance of this project as we all know, is that most of the tomatoes consumed in this country come from the northern states but mostly consumed in the south,’’ he said.
He mentioned Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Gombe, among others as states that cultivated and massively produced tomatoes all-year -round facilitated by irrigation.
“Due to its perishable nature, about 30 to 45 per cent are lost in transit because by the time they are moved from the north to south, the degree of loss is usually massive,’’ Akpa said.
He gave the assurance that the variety they were coming up with was one that would be moved from the northern to the southern states with just negligible losses of about three, five per cent.