• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Seasonality, high transport costs responsible for tomato price surge, says expert

Tomato policy creates more problems for Nigerians 3 years after

Contrary to reports that ‘Tuta Absoluta’ is the major factor responsible for the current surge in tomato prices, Mira Mehta, popularly called Tomato Jos, has attributed the sharp rise in the prices of the fresh vegetables to seasonality and hike in transportation costs.

Prices of fresh tomatoes have risen by over 200 percent year to date in the country, forcing consumers to switch to pastes and other close substitutes that are relatively cheaper.

Mehta in an X (formerly Twitter) said constant rainfall has reduced the availability of tomatoes as the crop does not thrive during the wet season, noting also that the cost of moving the fresh vegetable from the north to other parts of the country is quite high.

Read also: Tomato prices hit record high on Tuta Absoluta outbreak, seasonality

She attributed the high transportation cost to poor road networks across the country, forcing trucks to move slower during the period.

“In Nigeria, during the rainy season, it is hard to grow open-field tomatoes. Every year in June the prices go up,” she said.

“Costs of moving tomatoes from north to south have a seasonality element. During rainy seasons trucks move at a slower pace and are more expensive, and high humidity does more damage to the fruits in transit,” she added.

Currently, it costs between N3.1 million and N3.3 million to transport 335 and 370 baskets of tomatoes respectively on a 12- and a 14-tyre truck to Lagos from the northern part of the country, major players say.

Another X user with handle @borie_nla in a tweet said, “Loading and unloading tomatoes cost about N250,000. The illegal extortion paid to police, customs and immigration officers is more than N450,000.

“All these add up to the final prices in the market. To all those blaming middlemen, do it,” Borie said.

He added that tomato trucks spend an average of N10,000 as levies to council officials in every local government area they pass through, hinting that the cost of transportation is added to the market price.

Ranking 13th in the global market, Nigeria is Africa’s largest tomato producer after Egypt, yet the country is still unable to meet local demand because about 50 percent of tomato produce is wasted due to a lack of storage facilities, poor handling practices, and poor transportation network across the country.

However, Nigeria cannot undermine the havoc wreaked on tomatoes by Tuta Absoluta.

Sani Danladi, secretary-general of the National Tomato Growers, Processors, and Marketers Association of Nigeria, told BusinessDay that tomato farmlands in Kano have recorded about 80 percent loss owing to Tuta Absoluta.

Danladi noted that the country has failed to tackle the recurring pest infestation that has 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.

“The prices of tomatoes usually go up by this time yearly because tomatoes do not produce well during the rainy season, but this year’s scarcity is more severe and prices are higher because of Tomato Ebola. It is ravaging several farms,” he said.