This is the season of scarcity, and the interstate movement restriction to control the COVID-19 pandemic is further increasing the price of tomatoes.
Production is also hit by the resurgence of tuta absoluta, a tomato disease which reportedly touched some farms in Plateau, Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and other major growing areas like Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara states.
The National President of the Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Abdullahi Ringim, told Daily Trust on Sunday that he had received report of the disease doing damages to farms in the production areas.
This, along with the challenges of movement restriction, impacts severely on the industry.
Alhaji Ringim is worried that this would affect farmers in many ways, particularly those participating in the CBN loans under the Anchor Borrowers Programme as some of them would not be able to pay their loans.
Currently, a big basket of tomatoes costs over N10,000 in some parts of Nasarawa State and surrounding suburbs of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and even more within the City Centre.
In Bwari, Kuje and Gwagwalada, prices are said to be between N9,500 and N10,500.
Our correspondent in Lagos reports that a basket of tomatoes at the popular Mile 12 market now costs between N13,000 and 15,000 depending on the variety.
A dealer, Mallam Usman Yusuf, attributed the high cost of the produce to the season, movement restriction and the disease that is reportedly affecting tomato farms up North.
He said tomatoes, at the moment, are brought from Kano, Kaduna and Katsina states.
Reports from Port Harcourt indicate that a big basket of tomatoes now sells for between N115,000 and N16,000, and from Enugu State, a basket is sold for N16,000.
However, in Kano State, the price of tomatoes remains stable as a big basket sells for between N5,500 and N6,000 despite the ravaging disease.
Our correspondent in Katsina also reports that a big basket of tomatoes is sold for N8,000.
Tuta absoluta ravages tomato farms
There have been reported cases of the tomato disease usually known as Tuta absoluta ravaging some tomato farms in the producing belt.
This, stakeholders believe, is contributing to the current hike in the price of the produce.
The national president of the tomato growers association of Nigeria, Alhaji Abdullahi Ringim, however said some farms were yet to be touched. It was reported that the outbreak is more severe in Plateau and some parts of Kano State.
In Plateau State, farmers hit by the disease are calling on the state government to come to their aid in tackling the viral tomato disease caused by insects popularly called ‘cartapilla’.
The farmers, who spoke to our correspondent at their farms in Jos East Local Government Area of the state, said the disease was seriously affecting tomato cultivation and government should assist them with insecticides.
They said the state is reputed for its high volume of tomato cultivation, but that the disease was limiting their production.
Arum Dabo, one of the farmers, said in addition to the disease, there was also the problem of assessing fertilizer as well as challenges associated with irrigation farming as most of their farming is often between December and April when the rains are yet to fully commence.
Another farmer, Nyam Sambo, said for now, they don’t have any means of tackling the disease on their own except if government or other stakeholders come to their aid.
The story is the same in Kano as some farmers have reported the presence of the disease in their farms.
This, they said, was affecting tomato output from the state.
The state chairman of Tomato Out growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), Alhaji Sani Danladi Yadakwari, asked people not to panic as various measures were being put in place to ensure that tomatoes are always available.
He told Daily Trust on Sunday that the disease had never left the state since 2016 and farmers have been advancing in the fight against it.
“Though we have incurred losses due to the weather and poor seeds, farmers shouldn’t worry because we used to have the attack almost every year since 2016. However, we have devised various means to address the issue such as increase in production as well as use of adequate pesticides to treat it. We have also begun preparation for wet season tomato production,” he said.
But some affected farmers like Alhaji Nuhu Bala want the state Ministry of Agriculture to step in immediately to avert scarcity of the produce.
A source at the office of the Managing Director, Kano State Agricultural Development Agency (KNARDA), said the agency had received a report on the disease, adding that the attack was at the end of the dry season tomato production period.
Also, the Managing Director of Dangote Tomato Processing Company, Kadawa Abdulkarim Kaita, said the company had been intimated on the disease and raised a technical committee of experts to investigate it.
Despite challenges, stakeholders express hope
Stakeholders in the tomato value chain are expressing hope if the current interest in the sub-sector is sustained.
Already, Tomato Jos, an agro-processing company focused on the local production of high-quality tomato paste, said it had secured €3.9 million to boost production.
The company in a statement said it would further improve the livelihood and incomes of smallholder tomato farmers and increase the sustainability and stability of food supply in Nigeria.