The Federal Government on Tuesday revealed the cause of tomato scarcity in the country as it said the pest, Tuta absoluta, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’, is responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands in Nigeria. The destructive pest has so far invaded six states in Nigeria. Farmers all over the country have been warned to be careful and advised farmers on the management skills to use so as to curb the spread of the pest.
Speaking on the issue, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, revealed that the highly reproductive nature of the tomato pest and lack of management knowledge for containment allowed it to spread which led to the destruction of tomato fruits in Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos.
He also stated that the government is already consulting with experts in other find a way out.
He said, “The pest can also attack even pepper and Irish potato. So we are confronting something quite serious. But the good thing is that we are tackling it right now as experts will commence work immediately. We are bringing the commissioners and governors of states to jointly attack this pest, which, if not dealt with, will create serious problems for food security in our country.”
Also, the minister revealed that Nigeria spent huge sums importing substandard tomato paste which affected many in Nigeria.
“We have two processing plants for tomato paste in Nigeria, Erisco and Dangote, and their capacities are huge. 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.” he said.
Reacting to the recent development, CropLife International, a group of agro-professionals, advocated the use of hazard-based approach rather than a risk-based methodology. The group also called for the promotion and adoption of relevant biotechnologies in farming activities.