Mira Mehta is Co-Founder and CEO of Tomato Jos – a fully integrated farming and processing agribusiness in Northern Nigeria that produces tomato paste and other agricultural products for the domestic market.
Before founding Tomato Jos, Miss Mehta worked in the financial services and healthcare sectors in New York and Nigeria, respectively, where she gained valuable technical skills, developed an empathetic worldview, and built a strong network that would empower her to launch a business at the base of the pyramid. She is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Business School, and has lived in Nigeria since 2008.
1. Which aspect of the food waste problem is the most relevant for you?
The most relevant food waste problem for my business, Tomato Jos, is "post-harvest loss," where food spoils or becomes unusable after it has been harvested, but before it has been sold to the final user. My company works with tomatoes, and every year there is a "market glut" where supply outpaces demand and prices crash - during this time, many fruits are lost because farmers have a hard time selling.
2. What do you think is the best way to make improvements in this area?
In Nigeria, the best way to make post-harvest loss improvements is to improve the roads! Besides that, increasing information flow between growers and the markets would help - both during harvest and during other times of the year (for example when farmers are getting ready to plant). If farmers were able to spread out their production over the course of the season and/or have better knowledge about what each other were doing, the risk of a production glut would decrease.
3. Can you already discover a positive development in this area?
Tomato Jos is working with farmers to organize their production and improve their farming practices so that they can supply a steady stream of tomatoes to our processing facility and receive fair, consistent prices throughout the harvesting season. Other offtaking organizations are working to set up similar buying agreements with primary producers, too.
4. What institutional measures would you like to see in the future?
From the Nigerian government, I would ask for better roads and a floating currency. From the business community, I would ask for more transparency in the market around pricing and volumes (potentially provided through private sector services), a commodity exchange for maize, wheat, rice, and other non-perishable crops, and additional logistics and cold chain solutions for fresh produce.
5. How do you see the role of the SAVE FOOD initiative in the fight against food loss and food waste?
I think SAVE FOOD can and should continue to support companies that are working to mitigate food waste, and can also work with governments and other organizations to continue to push the food waste agenda.