• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Tomato prices hit record high on Tuta Absoluta outbreak, seasonality

…rises 200% in Lagos

Prices of tomatoes in the country have increased by 200 percent in Lagos owing to the recent outbreak of Tuta Absoluta in some farmlands in Kaduna and Kano – major growing states for the fresh fruit and the onset of the raining season, BusinessDay findings show.

Also, the price surge is owing to seasonality as the tomato crop does not do well during the raining season, and prices are always expected to surge during the period, according to experts.

A big basket of fresh tomatoes in Mile 12 Market, Lagos sells between N100,000 and N120,000 depending on negotiation as against N40,000 and N50,000 sold in April and early May, according to a BusinessDay market survey.

Sani Danladi, national chairman of the Association of Tomato Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, said the high cost of tomato in the country is hinged on the invasion of the Tuta Absoluta pest on farmlands in major growing states.

Danladi noted that the country has failed to tackle the recurring pest infestation that has led to losses for farmers already contending several issues.

Read also: Three good alternatives to fresh tomatoes

He added that due to the commencement of the rainy season, the crop does not do well during the rainy season.

Tuta Absoluta has a reputation for swiftly ravaging tomato cultivation in a little above 48 hours – prompting farmers to nickname it Tomato Ebola. It can breed between 10-12 generations in a year with the female capable of laying between 250 to 300 eggs within its lifetime.

Nigeria is the 13th largest producer of tomatoes in the world and the second after Egypt in Africa, 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 practice, and poor transportation network across the country.

Tasiu Haruna, a local tomato farmer in Kaduna told BusinessDay that climate change was a major challenge affecting production of the crop in the north.

In order to increase tomato production and tackle the escalating price surge, Haruna said farmers in the North are now cross-breeding their crops with hybrid tomato seedlings which are most resistant to the unconducive climate.

Since 2015, the country has yearly suffered from the outbreak of tuta and experts say that the recurrence of Tomato Ebola without any solution to tackle it at a national scale in Nigeria shows that relevant authorities seem helpless on preventive measures.

Read also: Food and beverage makers’ quarterly sales jump amid rising inflation

Loren Agwulonu, a data and research analyst, said the surge in tomato prices has left her searching for alternatives.

Agwulonu said she was surprised that only four pieces of the fresh fruit were sold to her for N500 in the Ago Palace area of Lagos.

According to the National Horticultural Research Institute, Nigeria is the second largest tomato producing country in Africa after Egypt and the 13th-largest producer globally.

Abubakar Kyari, minister of Agriculture, in a post on X platform, blamed the hike in tomato prices on the infestation of Tuta Absoluta invading tomato plants in major growing states in the country.

He said that the federal government was doing everything in its power to combat the spread of the disease as part of its initiative to control tomato prices.

“Our ministry is taking immediate action to combat this issue. We are deploying agricultural experts to affected areas to contain and eliminate the infestation,” Kyari said.

“Additionally, we are supporting our farmers with the necessary resources and guidance to recover their crops as quickly as possible, just as we instituted the Ginger Blight Control Taskforce,” he added.

Also, the prices of pepper, another ingredient, also surged by over 100 percent in the period under review.

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