Saturday, 7 May 2016

‘Tomato Ebola’ destroys Nigeria’s tomato harvest

‘Tomato Ebola’ destroys
Nigeria’s tomato harvest


– ‘Tomato Ebola’ has reduced locally
available fresh tomatoes
– Many fresh tomato sellers have resorted
to purchasing the product from neighbouring
countries
– Some people are gradually switching to
tomato pastes
The ravaging insect pest known as ‘Tuta
Absoluta’ has destroyed an estimated 40% of
anticipated harvest. However Nigerians are
gradually switching to pastes, on account of
prices that has gone up by 105%, from
N17,000 to N35,000 per basket.
According to BusinessDay, many fresh
tomato sellers have also resorted to
purchasing the produce from neighbouring
countries, especially the Republic of Benin
and Cameroon, in an effort to bridge the
shortfall in Nigeria.
The disease which farmers also refer to as
‘Tomato Ebola’ has reduced locally available
fresh tomatoes, forcing consumers to buy
canned purees/pastes which are relatively
cheaper.
Tuta absoluta is a harmful leaf mining moth,
also called tomato leaf miner and has a
strong preference for the tomato plant. The
moth travels and breeds in swarms and has
a reputation for swiftly ravaging tomato
cultivation in a little above 48 hours –
prompting farmers to nickname it Tomato
Ebola.
The disease has spread across tomato
farmlands in the north of Nigeria, including
areas in and around Makarfi, Hunkuyi, Soba
and Zuntu villages in Kaduna State; in Danja,
Katsina State, and in Kadawa, Dakasoye and
Kura villages in Kano State, according to
Agro Nigeria.
Tomatoes constitute 18 percent of all
vegetables consumed by Nigeria’s 180
million populace, according to a research by
the Agricultural Economics Department of
the University of Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria.
Nigeria’s domestic demand for tomatoes is
put at 2.3 million tonnes, while it produces
only 1.8 million tons annually, according to
the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development (FMARD).
Alice Aliagun, managing director of small-
scale Sandton shop in Lagos said: “There is
a disease now that has made fresh tomatoes
more expensive. You can imagine that a
basket of tomatoes which went for N17,000
last month now sells for almost N35,000.
Some of us now buy the cheaper cans and
sachets” .
According to Lawal Biliya Adam, secretary,
tomato section of the perishable goods
segment of Mile 12 Market in Lagos, there is
scarcity of tomatoes currently in the market,
owing to ‘Tuta Absoluta’ disease that has
affected most tomato farmlands in the
north. The secretary said: “We now send
some of our boys to Cameroon to buy
tomatoes since we cannot meet up with
demand”.