Prices of fresh tomatoes in the country have increased by 100 percent owing to the recent outbreak of Tuta Absoluta in some farmlands in Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina states, BusinessDay findings show.
The disruption in the food supply chain since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has also caused prices of fresh tomatoes to make rapid climbs in recent weeks.
BusinessDay survey of Mile 12 market revealed that a big basket of tomato now sells for N13, 000 as against N6,500 sold two weeks ago, indicating a 100 percent price increase.
While the price of a small basket of tomatoes sold between N2, 500 and N3,500 two weeks ago is now selling between N7,000 and N8,500.
“We have received reports from our farmers in Kaduna, Kastina and Kano about the outbreak of Tuta Absoluta in some farmlands,” said Abdullahi Ringim, national president, Tomato Growers, and Processors Association in a telephone.
“The situation of the outbreak is not that serious,” Ringim said.
He added that the continuous disruption on the food supply chain across borders within states has also affected negatively prices of the fresh produce.
“It takes a day or two to transport tomatoes from Kano or Kaduna to Lagos, but since the numerous checks at the interstate borders across the country it now takes three to four days to arrive at Lagos,” he said.
Similarly, he stated that the country has just entered the raining season which the crop does not do well, as tomatoes do not require plenty of water to grow well.
Prices of major staple foods and vegetables have surged across the country, making it more difficult for poor Nigerians as the government also fails to provide social safety net to protect them from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The country’s inflation for April accelerated to 12.34percent, its highest in two years.
Nigeria is the 13th largest producer of tomato 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 lack storage facility, poor handling practice, and poor transportation network across the country.
Nigeria’s post-harvest losses have further increased owing to the current disruption in the food supply chains, as it takes longer periods to get the foods- especially fresh produces to the market where they are needed.
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 – 300 eggs within its lifetime.
The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) says it is not aware of any outbreak of Tuta Absoluta in the country, adding that it has already trained farmers across the country on the use of a technology developed by the institute.
“We have a technology that tomato farmers are already using to control the pest. It involves using traps to prevent the pest from multiplying,” said Victor Chikaleke, plant breeder, NIHORT.
“The technology has been very effective in curbing the pest,” he said.
He urged farmers to adopt the technology by placing a bowl of water with a drop of insecticides and lamps on their farmlands in the night hours to help prevent a severe outbreak of the pest.