By Kolawole Omoniyi
A few days after some Tomato Farmers in Kano accused the Dangote Tomato Processing Company of complicity in their alleged failure to pay back the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) loans that they secured via the Anchors Borrowers Programme (ABP), the company has reacted to the allegation, shifting the blame on the apex bank.
Stallion Times had earlier reported, “How CBN’s Multi-Billion Naira Loans to Farmers Turn ‘Buhari Bonanza’ in Kano”.
The report quoted Nadabo Mati, Chairman of the Tomato Farmers Association in Minjibir LGA, as saying that Dangote Company failed to remit N500m to the CBN account after recovering tomatoes worth the same amount from the farmers.
Mati also attributed the low recovery to the perishable nature of the commodity and negligence. He also accused Dangote Tomato Processing Company of failing to remit about N500, 000, 000 that the company recovered from the farmers.
Also, “From the beginning of the program, Dangote Company was contracted to be taking tomatoes from our members as part of the recovery plans.
“Despite the stress and cost implication of transporting the tomatoes to Dangote Company in Kura, we may be in the queue there for seven days waiting for the company to take the commodity from us, they always claim that their equipment was faulty.
“You know our product is perishable. Such delay sometimes costs us thirty to forty percent (30-40%) losses and the Company (Dangote) will not bare the loss.
“Apart from that, we later found out that even the N500, 000, 000 worth of tomatoes that the Dangote Company recovered from us; the company did not remit it to the CBN’s designated account,” he furiously explained
Confirming the allegation against Dangote Company, Musa Shehu Sheka, AFAN Secretary, Kano State Chapter said the company was taken to court over the alleged unremitted N500, 000, 000.
“It is another market manipulation and nobody can query them (Dangote Tomato Processing Company). What we can do is to write a petition and take the company to court”.
“We (AFAN) took an action on the allegation by confirming the situation, we took the company to court, but we were told to go back and settle the matter amicably.
Though, the case is still pending in court”, he disclosed.
Dangote Kicks, Blames CBN for Refusal to Pay Tomato Shortfall
However, Abdulkadir Isah, Former Managing Director of Dangote Tomato Processing Company, in a telephone interview denied the company’s complicity in the alleged fraud.
Isah explained that from the onset of the program, his company entertained the fear of getting buyers for the processed tomatoes, but the CBN allayed the fear.
“We all agreed to collect the fresh tomato from farmers and process it into tomato paste.
“But we asked CBN what is the market for the proposed tomato paste because the previous year we processed it nobody bought it from us.
“Up till now the stock we processed last year is still in our factory, so we don’t want to get into another issue again,” he noted.
The former Managing Director said his company notified the CBN that most of the companies packaging tomato paste in the country are importing from China, but the apex bank promised to compel them to patronize the Dangote tomato paste.
“The CBN assured us that those companies will be forced to patronize us by stopping the importation, so we say no problem. As the farmers were supplying the tomatoes, we were computing it and paying them but it got to a point where nobody was buying from us so we went back to the CBN.
“Truly the CBN eventually introduced a company to us. But there was a shortfall in the negotiated price and the CBN decided to pay the shortfall. We also agreed that the shortfall is paid into the account of the tomato farmers association.
“But up till now, the CBN refused to pay the money.”
“We wrote to the CBN about the 2019 season, and we wrote another reminder yet no payment. I even have a copy of the letter. So that is the dilemma and the association is aware. So far we are not holding the farmers’ money,” he narrated.
On the postharvest losses being recorded by the farmers due to the alleged delayed collection of the commodity at the factory, Isah also denied the allegation.
He said only substandard tomatoes were rejected. “There was never a day even when we are not running production that we have not accepted any tomato brought to our factory.
Some of these farmers will bring unripened tomatoes, those ones that can get routine and we have a quality parameter, so those are the ones we reject outrightly,” he explained