The price of tomatoes has shot up astronomically in the last couple of weeks making it very difficult to purchase. Nigerians have since found other means to make the very common stew and jollof rice in their homes, while still trying to figure out the reason behind this. Many have blamed the shortage and high price on the recent hike in feul prices, apparently we have a bigger problem as the federal government on Tuesday confirmed a pest infestation in six states in the northern part of the country. The states, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos have been hit by a pest called the Tomato Leaf Miner or Tuta absoluta commonly referred to as ‘Tomato Ebola’. This pest is responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands causing the short supply of the fruit.
Below are a few things you should know about this epidemic:
1. Tuta absoluta is a species of moth known by the common names tomato leafminer and South American tomato moth. It is well known as a serious pest of tomato crops in Europe and South America.
2. This moth was first known as a tomato pest in many South American countries.
3. In 2006, it was identified in Spain. The following year it was detected in France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Morocco, Algeria and Libya. In 2009, Turkey In 2010. in Nigeria in 2016.
4. The disease which farmers also refer to as ‘Tomato Ebola’ has reduced locally available fresh tomatoes in the country.
5. The moth lays eggs on the tomato plants and the larva feeds voraciously upon tomato plants, consuming leaves, stems and ripe fruits.
6. It is capable of causing a yield loss of 100%.
7. Tomato is the main host plant, but Tuta absoluta also attacks other crop plants ncluding potato, eggplant, pepino and tobacco.
8. The adult moth has a wingspan around one centimeter.
9. In favourable weather conditions eight to ten generations can occur in a single year.
10. The outbreak of a moth that has destroyed over 80 percent of tomato farms in Kaduna state.
11. A wholesale basket containing hundreds of tomatoes now sells between N35, 000 to N42,000 in Lagos, up from 300 to 1,500 naira before the outbreak.
12. More than 200 tomato farmers in the region have already suffered losses of more than one billion naira from the disease
13. The highly reproductive nature of the tomato pest coupled with favourable environment and lack of management knowledge for containment had resulted in its spread without resistance, leading to the destruction of tomato fruits.
14. Tuta absoluta quickly develops resistance to pesticides, making it difficult to contain. Unfortunately, ordinary pesticides cannot deal with this `tuta absoluta’ because it has a way of multiplying so fast. It produces almost 250 offspring per cycle.
15. The federal government has started consulting with states and experts to seeks measures to tackle the pest; Experts have been sent to Kenya to develop a strategy to combat the brown moth.
We hope this endemic is contained soon.