A pest known as Tuta absoluta has caused scarcity of tomatoes by destroying this year’s harvest of the fruit in producing farms across Nigeria, particularly, farms in Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Plateau states.
This has caused an over four-hundred percent increase in the market value of the vegetable, at the risk of the buyer – as the quantity once purchased at fifty-naira few months back is presently sold at five-hundred naira.
Tomato is an important fruit for Nigerians as it’s used in major delicacies prepared by daily.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture stated that Nigeria produces about 1.5 million tons of tomatoes a year, but over 900,000 tons is lost to rot just as Dangote Farms Tomato Processing Factory halted operations in its $20 million tomato paste facility due to a scarcity of tomatoes, barely two months after beginning operations.
Tuta absoluta is also known by the common name tomato leafminer or the South American tomato moth. It was first discovered in South America from where it spread rapidly across the world.
The pest is very difficult to control due to its high mutation capacity and ability to destroy a whole tomato farm in 48 hours. Its also known to develop a resistance to insecticides.
Last year, farmers in some parts of Nigeria recorded losses as a result of this pest attack but tomato wasn’t in demand then compared to now therefore the consequences of the pest’s attack weren’t reflected in the price of the fruit.
This is a matter of urgency, one which the Nigerian government must handle immediately as the pest, if left unchecked, would cost the economy direly.
Sudan is one example of a country who didn’t control the pest from the beginning and it caused the country three years to recover from a similar attack in 2010.
Quick facts about the tomatoes industry in Nigeria
>Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world.
>It is the largest producer of tomatoes in sub-Saharan Africa.
>It is the eighth largest importer of tomato paste in the world after Iraq and Japan.
>The country has a significant demand for processed tomatoes but almost half of the tomato pastes found in its markets have been imported from China and Italy.
>Last year, the Director General and CEO of the Raw Material and Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Dr. Hussaini Ibrahim, revealed that Nigeria spends about $1.5 billion annually on tomato product-importation from China and other parts of the world.
>Erisco tomato paste known as Nagiko is the first tomato paste to be made in Nigeria.