Prices of fresh tomatoes in the country have increased by over 500 per cent, owing to the recent outbreak of Tuta absoluta in some farmlands in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Gombe states. Tuta absoluta, also called the tomato leaf miner, is a severely harmful, leaf miner moth that poses a major problem in vegetable cultivation, especially tomato, known for its rapid crop destruction. Tuta absoluta is a devastating pest of tomato which originated from Latin America and has earned the nickname ‘Tomato Ebola’, due to its propensity to decimate tomato plantations in a little more than 48 hours. It may produce 10-12 generations of offspring every year, and the female can lay up to 300 eggs in her lifespan.
Business Day reports that the situation in tomato-growing states has led to 557 per cent increase in the price of fresh tomatoes in Lagos and Ibadan markets in four months. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture has estimated the current loss to farmers at N1.3 billion. A big basket of fresh tomatoes, which ranges from 40kg and above, in Mile 12 Market, Lagos sells between N60,000 to N65,000 depending on negotiation as against N9,500 sold in January. Similarly in Ibadan, a big basket of fresh tomatoes with formerly sold around N12,000-N20,000 in January; sold for N30,000 to N45,000 in March and April. Presently, it now sells for N55,000-N65,000 depending on the size and negotiations. As of May 2023, when FarmingFarmersFarms visited the popular Bodija market in Ibadan; about 7-9 medium-sized tomatoes were sold for N500 and the bigger sizes of same quantity sold for N1,000.
The Secretary-General of the National Tomato Growers, Processors, and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Sani Danladi told newsmen that tomato farmlands in Kano had recorded about 80 per cent loss, owing to Tuta absoluta. Danladi noted that the country had failed to tackle the recurring pest infestation that had led to losses for farmers already contending several issues. “More than 300 hectares have been destroyed by the outbreak that has affected more than 500 farmers in Kano State, and also affected farmers in Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, and Gombe states”, he said. According to him, the tomato association is still collecting data from the remaining states to be able to evaluate the loss, adding that it is the main reason why prices of the crop are surging.
According to him, the Tuta pest attacks the tomato plant by eating up the green part and preventing it from photosynthesis, thus leading to the death of the plant. He noted that farmers are supposed to develop management practices, as preventive measures, but they have failed to do so which is causing the continuous outbreak, noting once it invades an environment it remains there. “It will keep recurring yearly if our farmers refuse to do the needful regarding management practices. We have educated them on it and have developed management practices and some products”, he said. According to the Chief Executive Officer of Farmacy Farms and Agro Consults in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Mr. Olamilekan Aniyikaye said, “those that were affected by Tuta are those that are not knowledgeable about tomato farming. I say this because, there are pesticides to easily take care of the pest. The high cost now is about demand and supply. Demand is high. Meanwhile, the pest infestation has reduced supply and definitely, the price will spike too”.