Abuja, Kano, Funtua, Lagos and Port Harcourt — Tomato production in the country has been severely hit by the outbreak of disease, leaving many farms devastated across the major producing states.
Tomato farms at the Kadawa Irrigation valley, which is the major producing area and demonstration farms designed to feed the Dangote’s Dansa Tomato Company in Kano State, have been damaged by disease.
Member representing the area at the National Assembly, Honourable Muktar Chiromawa, stated that although samples are not yet collected by experts, the diseases are suspected to be tuta absoluta.
Chiromawa said they are in touch with a South African company that produces the technology that can mitigate the disease.
The lawmaker, however, noted that the effect of the disease depended on the stage it affected the plant. He said it can occur during the nursery, which killed the plant or at the time the plant was producing fruits, which could affect the quality of the fruits and the yield.
John Okwudili Ene, a consultant, development horticulturist based in Abuja stressed that spider mites, tomato seed bora and a host of other tomato diseases could cause severe economic damage to farms.
He advised farmers to always fumigate their farms before planting to avoid that kind of scenario, adding that tomato could be prone to a lot of diseases, which demand farmers to take necessary action to forestall such eventualities.
Reports from major producing and consuming states showed that the situation was responsible for huge economic loss to farmers; and created huge demand and rise in prices of the commodity across the country.
Our correspondent in Kano who visited the Kadawa irrigation centre revealed that most of the irrigation sites were being cleared in preparation for the wet season farming.
It was also gathered from the farmers that most of their tomato farms were affected by what they referred to in Hausa as ‘Yana’.
According to one of the tomato farmers in Kadawa, Usman Isa, the strange disease attacked the tomato leaves, which resulted to stunted growth and affected yield, adding that “even though we do not usually engage in producing tomatoes during the wet season here, most of the tomatoes in Kano during the wet season come from Gombe and Zaria. Our dry season yield dropped drastically this year due to damage to our tomato farms, which affected our yield.
“This infection has also completely wiped away Dangote’s tomato demonstration farm situated here at Kadawa, and that has completely brought us into panic and believing that it is a sort of plague or something. What really baffles us is that we have not received any attention from the authorities,” lamented Isa.
Halliru Idris is a tomato seedling breeder who said that the disease attacked his tomato seedlings and nursery, adding that he made effort to stop it, as a seedling breeder, yet it defied all measures he had taken.
“Look at these seedlings, even if you are not a farmer you can tell that they are not alright. This is what has destroyed virtually all the tomato plantations here. I have received some scientists visiting from a private pesticide company who bought about five beds of tomato seedlings and are presently making a research on it,” said Idris.
An agronomist with Kano State Ministry for Local Government, Lawan Bashir, said the infection is probably that of spider mites, stressing that “spider mites are very little arachnids that are difficult to see without a magnifying glass unless they have multiplied so much as to be in colonies.
The mites feed on the plant’s sap, working from the bottom of the plant to the top, and on the underside of the plant’s leaves. There is no particular season in which the mites are more prevalent; they are active all year.
“When spider mites invade your tomato plants, they inflict small wounds on the plants that can eventually harm or kill them,” said Bashir.
It was gathered that, a basket of tomatoes currently sells at N12,000 to N15,000 as against N3,000 to N6,000 this period last year.
Katsina State which is one of the major tomato producing states is also caught up by the disease as many tomato farmers in the state are devastated by the destruction caused on their farms.
Speaking with Daily Trust last Saturday at Dantankari, Mal Nasiru Dantankari explained how his three farms were completely destroyed by the worm attack within a short period of time.
“In less than a week I lost an estimated 1,000 baskets of tomato to the strange attack this year. The worm attack is very fast as it takes only two to three days to destroy an entire tomato farm no matter its size.
“Some farmers here invested about N2,000,000 each in the cultivation of tomatoes but at the end they could not harvest tomato worth N10,000,” Malam Nasiru said.
He further said that he has lost about N1,800,000 worth of tomatoes, adding that the pest attack made farmers in Dantankari to switch to grains as early as May, unlike in previous years when tomatoes can reach the first week of July.
An agricultural expert who works with Katsina Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (KTARDA), Mal Abdulkareem Ibrahim, said the worm is a specie of army worms that destroy crops.
“‘Ebola or Sharon’ as farmers locally call it, the worm metamorphosed from butterfly or whitefly and it is a specie of army worms that feed on leaves, stems and fruits of vegetables and other crops, the attack of army worms resembles that of spider mite which also sucks the flesh of the tomato fruits,” Mal Ibrahim said.
He added that there is so far no defined remedy against the pest; the combination of two or more of Lara force, Magic, Caiman B, and Best Action can help in lessening the gravity of the pests’ attack especially at its initial stage.
Mal Abdulkareem further said when the worms invade a tomato farm, about 50 of the worms could be found in a single fruit making the inner flesh to become watery and smelly.
Our correspondent in Lagos reports that the situation with tomato farms in Northern Nigeria has resulted in significant increase in price of the commodity in Lagos markets.
In an interview with Daily Trust in Lagos, a major dealer said that scarcity of the produce has hit many tomato markets.
A dealer at Ilefo market, Alhaji Sambo Idris, said ‘price of tomato has gone up in Lagos. He said one basket is sold for between N25,000 and N30, 000. This was what previously was sold for N5,000 – N6,000, he said, adding that “we thought the price will not exceed N10,000 but we are surprised when the price increased beyond our imagination.”
When contacted, the chairman of tomato dealers at Mile 2 Market, Alhaji Yahuza Alasan, said apart from insects that attacked farms in the North, lack of rain in the South has also contributed to the tomato price increase in Lagos.
A market survey carried out by our correspondent in Port Harcourt indicated that a basket of tomatoes which cost N8,000 to N9,000 before, is now sold for N22,000 to N23,000. Four pieces of tomatoes go for N100 in the retail market.
Investigation by our correspondent further shows that the rise in the price of tomatoes was as a result of high demand across the country which has affected its supply.
Mr John Aduma, a tomato dealer in Port Harcourt told Daily Trust that the present scarcity of the commodity was as a result of shortfall in its supply. He said in all the farms that supply tomatoes across the country, it was only Pankshin and Rukuba in Plateau State that supplied the produce across the country.
He said other areas such as Gboko in Benue State where tomatoes are supplied did not grow any tomatoes because of weather and environmental factors.
He said: The “price of tomatoes is not very favourable to the dealers and consumers alike,” adding that “before now we used to buy one basket of tomatoes for N8,000 to N9,000; that was the time the tomato market in Pankshin, Rukuba and Gboko were supplying tomatoes to dealers across the country. But now it’s only in Pankshin that one gets tomato supply. Gboko and Rukuba tomato markets are not presently supplying tomatoes. All the tomatoes that are presently in the market are from Pankshin and this is the reason for the increase in the price.”
Anduma said that they buy a basket of tomatoes for N19,000 to N20,000 which are resold for between N22, 000 to N23, 000.
In Bayelsa State, a basket of tomatoes cost N25,000. In weeks to come, dealers in the state expect the price of the product to normalize at N8,000. That will be when the Gboko tomato market will resume in full force.
Different varieties of tomatoes are also responding to the scarcity. A UTC tomato variety is usually very expensive when it’s in the market. UTC tomato seed is sold for N22,000 while that of Syria goes for N18,000. UTC seed has a longer life span and durability than that of Syria. UTC tomato seed can last up to one week without rotting away while the Syria seed does not last more than three days.
Many sellers said the high cost of tomatoes is affecting their businesses, adding that they find it very difficult to sell their products because the final consumers find it difficult to buy at the high cost. They however expressed optimism that the price of the commodity will come down in coming weeks.
In Abuja, the federal capital, our reporters who visited various markets in Wuse, Utako, Garki and Kubwa discovered that there was acute shortage of the commodity, which has made affordability difficult for the residents of the FCT.
A standard basket, which until now sold for N800, currently goes for N17,000 to N22,000 making it extremely difficult for consumers to purchase.
Vincent A. Yusuf, Ahmed Dio Agbo, Mustapha Suleiman, Ibrahim Musa Giginyu, Idris Mahmud, Abubakar Haruna & Victor Edozie
Source: Daily Trust