By Udeme Utip|

Keen calculation on the consumption of tomatoes and other food crops averagely, in Akwa Ibom, indicates that not less the N15.5b is spent annually.

Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel on Technical Matters and Due Process, Engr. Ufot Ebong disclosed this while showing Journalists round the vegetable crops demonstration farms in the state capital during the good Governance tour organized by the state ministry of information and strategy.

A breakdown of Ebong’s calculations shows that no fewer than 2800 tons of tomatoes at the cost of N300,000 per ton is being consumed in the state on monthly bases, which sums up to N1.5b monthly and N15.5B annually. Not taking into consideration those smuggled from neighbouring countries.

Ebong expressed the readiness of AKEES farms to take over tomato and other vegetable market in the state, eliminate the so much capital flight by saturating the local, national markets as well as exporting to European countries and other markets at the global sphere.

The possibility of common vegetables growing in Akwa Ibom soil was left in doubt for ages, though regularly consumed but the last one year of experiment by AKEES has proven beyond doubt that 22 vegetables hitherto imported from the Northern part of the country and other countries can grow even better on the soil of Akwa Ibom.

Narrating the genesis of this important discovery, the AKEES boss said it was during a brain storming session with his partners that it was argued that if vegetable crops like melon and other similar crops are growing in Akwa Ibom soil, then it would be possible for other species of same crops to grow.

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“I mentioned water melon, they say it dose not grow, cucumber, no, tomatoes, no, garden egg, no, but some one said: if melon and other species of cucumber are growing in our soil, why wont the needed species grow? At that point we decided to experiment. We browsed the internet and we saw so many things that we needed.

“There used to be a fallow land in front of my house which i did not know the owner. I decided to clear it for and we used it as a demonstration farm. I pleaded with the owners when they eventually showed up and they allowed us the use their land”.

Ebong said at the end of the experiment, it was discovered that 22 commonly consumed vegetables which were hitherto imported into the state from the Northern states and other countries could grow even better in Akwa Ibom soil.

On tomatoes as a single crop and largely consumed globally, the SSA hinted that within the last one year of the experiment by AKEES, about 135 big baskets of the best qualities have been harvested between five to six time in each three months life span of each tomato season per hectare of land.

However, from his calculation, each hectare of land produces tomatoes worth of N6m within three months, even as there are over 100 hectares of land scattered within the state where the best specie of tomatoes and other vegetables are planted by AKEES.

Ebong says that the prove of concept carried out by AKEES shows that the 22 common fruits demonstrated, can be cultivated in our land all year round in enough quantity to meet the needs of the people

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In the case of onion, the SSA explained that, of 1, 700. 016 stands of onions planted on eight hectares of land at Mbak Etoi, will yield not less than N28m within the nest three months in a worst case scenario.

Other vegetable crops plated and discovered to be growing well in the state soil include: cabbage, carrot, egg plant, garden egg, cucumber, green pepper, lotus, okro, water Mellon among other crops.

In the next one year, Akwa Ibom is expected to produce individual farmers who will be major exporters of these vegetable crops within and outside the country, especially tomatoes as the species grown here are rated the best for tomato paste.

He mentioned that off takers are afoot to buy the tomatoes off the farmers as soon as they are harvested from the farms. A Port Harcourt g

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