Tuta absoluta a South American pest popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’, has been blamed for the substantial devastation of tomato in farmlands in six states of Nigeria.
It was also disclosed by the Federal Government that Nigeria spends roughly N80bn ($400m) yearly importing tomato paste, reiterating that many of the imported products were substandard.
According to The Minister of Agriculture and rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh during a press briefing in Abuja that the highly reproductive nature of the tomato pest coupled with the favourable environment and deficiency of management knowledge for control of this ravaging pest has resulted in its spread like a wild fire without any challenge. This development had led to the destruction of tomato fruits in Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos
The Minister stated that the Federal Government had started consulting with states and experts in other to bring up measures to tackle the pest.
The rumours making the rounds about the report that tomato processing factories had mopped-up tomato fruits in Nigeria was unfounded and untrue according to Mr Audu Ogbeh.
On the amount spent on importing tomato paste, the minister said, “We have two processing plants for tomato paste in Nigeria, Erisco and Dangote, and their capacities are enormous. We welcome their arrival because our annual import bill of tomato paste is about $400m and it is a good sign that we can now produce here and make money for our farmers.”
The minister also tried to make the audience understand the weight of the challenge at hand by telling them that this same tomato raving pest tuta absoluta also attacks pepper and irish potato. But the good thing is that experts and those with technical know-how have commenced work immediately to contain its menace, because if it is not dealt with, it will create a serious problem of food scarcity and reduced availability in the country.
Experts in the light of these developments have also distributed varieties of tomato seeds to be grown in the western part of the country as an alternative.
Proffering measures that could be used to check pests as well as manage pesticides in Nigeria, CropLife International, a group of agro-professionals, advocated the use of hazard-based approach rather than a risk-based methodology