Nigerian gov’t blames tomato scarcity on farm infestation

THE Federal Government said it has identified “severe infestation on tomato crops” as the cause for ongoing scarcity and price hikes of tomatoes across the country.

The Minister of Agriculture, Senator Abubakar Kyari, disclosed this in a statement shared on his social media X on Monday, May 27.

He referred to the infestation causing tomato scarcity as tomato ebola or tomato leaf miner.

“A significant number of our tomato farms have been affected by a severe infestation known as tomato ebola or tomato leaf miner.

“This has drastically reduced the availability of tomatoes and contributed to rising costs,” Kyari said.

He, however, said the ministry was taking immediate action to combat the issue.

“We are deploying agricultural experts to affected areas to contain and eliminate the infestation.

“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.”

The price of tomatoes has hit the rooftop in the past weeks as a basket of tomatoes sells for about N150,000 in some parts of the country.

According to the latest ‘Food Price Watch report for April’ by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there was a significant increase in tomato prices over the past year.

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The data showed that the price for 1kg of tomatoes escalated by 131.58 per cent from N485.10 in April 2023 to N1,123.41 in April 2024.

The report highlighted a sharp increase in tomato prices in the short term and stated that between March and April this year, the average price for 1kg of tomatoes rose by 17.06 per cent from N959.68 to N1,123.41.

Last year, a similar infestation caused by an insect called tuta absoluta, ravaged tomato farms, causing consequent loss of about N1.3 billion to farmers, The ICIR reported.

Some of the states currently affected by the tomato ebola were Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Gombe.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) feared the scarcity and skyrocketing prices could become worse, with a consequent widening of the country’s tomato needs to three million metric tonnes from about 1.3 million deficit earlier experienced.

Experts have said that the widespread infestation could be enhanced by climate change movement of pests around the field, warm environment and increase in humidity.

A senior advisor with the Tomato and Orchard Producers’ Association of Nigeria (TOPAN),  Ikechi Agbugba, had told The ICIR that the governments at all levels needed to invest considerably in research to effectively tackle the situation.

He also suggested that governments implement policies and promote programmes that would enhance investment in the tomato industry, besides giving out incentives to farmers.




     

     

    In his statement, the Minister of Agriculture said, “We understand the impact this has on your daily lives and are working tirelessly to resolve the situation and restore the supply of affordable tomatoes. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this challenging time.”

    Some Nigerians have taken a swipe on the minister and the President Bola Tinubu-led federal government over the crisis and related prevailing socio-economic challenges in the country.

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    An X user, Freda, @fredaOnu, said, “The cost of tomatoes is out of control; it’s like they are charging us per seed. Tomatoes should be an affordable staple, please something needs to be done.”

    Another X user, Lawal Nojeemdeen, @Enjay_L, stated, “So there was no plan for such occurrences in the first place? No now Mr. Minister. It’s well!”

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