Prices of fresh tomatoes in the country have increased by 300 percent as Tuta Absoluta ravages farmlands in Gombe, BusinessDay findings show.
BusinessDay survey of Mile 12 market revealed that a big basket of tomato now sells for N28, 000 as against N7,000 sold a month ago, indicating a 300 percent price increase.
While the price of a small basket of tomatoes sold for N2, 500 month ago is now sells for N10, 000.
“We have been getting less tomato supply from the north. We were told that Tuta Absoluta is destroying some farmland in Gombe,” said Lawal Biliya Adam, secretary, tomato section of the perishable goods segment of Mile 12 Market.
“We have started bringing in tomato from Cameroun to ensure we meet demand,” Adam said.
Last year, the Tuta pest destroyed tomato farms in the northern part of the country, causing scarcity and more than 5oo percentage increase in price of the crop.
Currently, the pest infestation has spread across tomato farmlands in and around Akko, Kwami and Yamaltu-Deba local government areas of Gombe state.
“We inspected two farms in Zambuk area in Yamaltu-Deba local government area of Gombe state and 70 percent of the farm is already destroyed by the pest,” Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president Nigeria Agribusiness Group and CEO Fresh Farms Limited told BusinessDay in a telephone respond to questions.
“The price of tomato normally goes up by this time of the year, but this year’s increase is higher because of the recent announcement of Tuta Absoluta ravaging some farmlands, speculators have taken advantage to increase the price excessively,” Ijewere said.
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 life time.
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.
“Storage is a major problem for vegetables in general and the government has failed in this area. Few months ago there was excess tomato in the north but due to poor storage facilities, we couldn’t preserve them,” said Abiodun Oyelekan, Lagos State president of FADAMA project, and chief executive officer of Farm Fresh Agric Ventures.