• Almost every food in Nigeria uses one common ingredient- tomatoes- but the once available vegetable is now scarce, and most Nigerians are not enjoying their favorite traditional dishes especially, jollof rice.

    Over the past months, a basket of tomatoes has increased by 400 percent, with Nigerians having to pay around 200 Naira up from 50 Naira, leaving many without the luxury of seasoning their dishes with the fruit.

    It is because of this reason that Nigerians took to social media posting photographs of La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain. La Tomatina is a festival that takes place in August and involves 20,000 participants from across the world participating in a mammoth tomato fight.

    For Nigerians, the event that is supposed to be fun-filled is just but a waste of the precious commodity which has become rare to find, thanks to a devastating pest attack. The fruit-eating moth known as “tomato leaf miner”, or tuta absoluta, has destroyed tomato farms in Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina and Plateau states.

    Nigeria is the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world, and on the flip side, they are also the eighth largest importer of tomato paste in the world after Iraq and Japan. This shows that the fruit is highly used in the country and even what they produce locally is not enough to satisfy their daily needs.

    Since its discovery in South America, tuta absoluta, also known as the South American tomato moth, has been spreading rapidly across the world, causing major losses to the crop farmers.

    Nigerian farmers now refer to the outbreak as “tomato Ebola” after the deadly disease that brought west Africa in 2014 to a near standstill.

    On Monday, the Kaduna government declared a state of emergency over the tomato shortage. This prompted the Nigerian government through the minister of agriculture and rural development, Audu Ogbeh, announce that the central government would send experts to address the crisis in the affected areas in the north.

    “We have declared a state of emergency over the outbreak of a moth that has destroyed over 80% of tomato farms in the state,” the Kaduna state agriculture commissioner, Manzo Daniel, told AFP news agency.

    Due to the outbreak, more than 200 tomato farmers are said to have incurred losses of more than one billion naira, and it is feared the moth could cause more damages in the wider northern parts of the country.

    A tomato factory set up in Kano by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote to reduce Nigeria’s over-reliance on imports on tomato products and boost local domestic production has been forced to shut down.

    The factory which has only be in operation for about three months requires 1,200 tons of the fruit every day but with the shortage, the factory cannot operate, according to the managing director Abdulkareem Kaita.

    An article image
    Effects of the tuta absoluta on tomatoes. Image credit: EPPO Gallery

    Tomato crisis is now the new oil crisis

    Nigeria’s economy has been heavily affected by the 67 percent rise in the price of petrol, and mounting inflation in the country that used to be Africa’s top oil producer.

    With inadequate fuel to run their cars, generators, power outages and now the tomato crisis, Nigerians are a population struggling not only with oil but now a staple crop!

    Aimed at developing a strategy to fight the disturbing moth, which lays eggs on tomato plants and develops into a hungry caterpillar that feeds on the leaves, stems and fruit, some experts have been sent to Kenya.

    The moth has an ability to destroy thousands of tomato crops in a farm within 48 hours. Worse still, the control measures are limited as it has a high mutation capacity, quickly developing resistance to pesticides.

    Image credit: AP