The Scourge of Tuta Absoluta, an end in sight?

Posted by Adaora Anozie

On June 8, 2016

The sight before the farmer is like a scene from a horror movie. The leaves of the tomato plants are rusted grey, parched at edges. Some of the fruits look like they have been infested by boils, while others have dark holes drilled into them. The army of bugs remain, hiding behind leaves or within the mines they have drilled into the fruits. Just two days before, the farm had been thriving, with the farmer expecting a healthy bountiful harvest. Today, all has gone to waste.

A Bug on Rampage
This farm has been struck by the dreaded Tuta absoluta. The moth has a reputation for swiftly destroying tomato cultivation in just about 48 hours – prompting farmers to nickname it Tomato Ebola. It can breed between 10-12 generations in a year. The female lays between 250 – 300 eggs within its life time.

Tomato Farmer, Mallam Abdullahi Umaru said all his effort to prevent the outbreak in his farm came to no avail. His use of insecticide had not yielded any result as the pests seem to have developed some resistance to the chemicals.

In and around Makarfi, Hunkuyi, Soba and Zuntu villages of Kaduna, in Danja Katsina State and in Kadawa, Dakasoye and Kura villages in Kano state – which account for more than a quarter of Nigeria’s tomato production – the story is the same; tomato farmers within the last month have recorded a minimum of 40% crop loss to the menace.

The effect on the market reached farther than the spread of the bug. In Lagos, Abuja and even Calabar, the cost of tomatoes skyrocketed. Wakul Ibrahim, a wholesale dealer in tomatoes at Nasarawa wholesale market in Calabar who has been in the business for about 4 years complained that the scarcity of tomatoes observed from March this year is worse compared to what happened last year. “Last year December, a basket of tomatoes was selling between N5,000 and N6,000 even uptill January this year (2016), but currently it goes for N30,000 if you see it.  I spent N145,000 to bring five (5) baskets from the north last week,” he moaned.

Khalid Yakubu, another dealer complained, “For the last one week, tomato has not entered this market. Before, it was every week and baskets of tomatoes were everywhere, but now only those few. I do not know why it is scarce but I know it is scarce despite the fact that tomato has two planting seasons.”

State Secretary, Perishable Sellers Association Mandate Market, Ilorin, Dauda Abiodun Rasak told AgroNigeria that the tomato being sold in the state was brought in from Chad, Burkina-Faso and Cameroon. “We are now importing tomato from neighbouring countries to augment local production. It is that bad. Although buyers like the varieties being sold but it comes with a high price of between N33,000 to N35,000 depending on purchasing power of individual buyers.”

Culled from AgroNigeria