By Steve Agbota
THE sudden reappearance of tomatoes in Nigerian markets may have left many wondering what magic the government did to restore normalcy after the scourge of Tuta Absoluta.
Daily Sun findings reveal that while government is still looking for remedy, it has gone ahead to meet the shortfall with import of fresh tomatoes from Cameroon and Benin Republic.
At least about 70 per cent of the fresh tomatoes is coming from importation corridors, which include, Cameroon and Benin Republic.
The resort to import came after so much noise been made by stakeholders to tackle the menace of Tomato Ebola with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development promising to curb the crisis. But the disease is still raving tomato farms across the country especially in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Despite the importation from the neghbouring countries and with the aid of Greenhouse technology, which accounts for 25 per cent of tomato in the market today, the price of tomato is still on the high side.
A basket of tomatoes, which previously sold for N26,000 was being sold for between N28,000 and N40,000, depending on the size and quality. This also shows that the price of the fruit has increased by 400 percent as Nigerians now pay around 200 Naira for the same quantity of tomatoes, which was sold at 50 Naira few months ago following government’s failure to tackle the moths ravaging tomato farms in the country.
Tomatoes constitutes 18 percent of all vegetables consumed by Nigeria’s 180 million populace, according to a research by the Agricultural Economics Department of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria.
Nigeria’s domestic demand for tomatoes is put at 2.3 million tonnes, while it produces only 1.8 million tonnes annually, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD). This simple statistic shows that Nigeria is really doing badly in terms of tomato production. It is worrisome too, that despite its fertile arable land Nigeria still turns to countries like Cameroon and Benin Republic for fresh tomatoes.
The Chief Executive Officer of AgroNigeria, an agric mouthpiece Mr. Richard-Mark Mbaram, who spoke with Daily Sun, said that tomatoes in the market are coming from two sources, massive importation from Cameroon and Benin Republic, as consumers are in need of the fruit.
He added: “70 per cent of what we have in the market presently is coming through those corridors I am talking about. So we have an Eastern corridor coming from Cameroon and then we have a Western corridor coming from Benin Republic.
The second leg is from Greenhouse production. Greenhouse production from the other end of the market, is more expensive but actually the wealthy are dependent on it and so that is where they are getting services from and 25 per cent of tomato seen in the market is being done by Greenhouse. Then there is a five per cent, which is still coming from internal production from area like Gombe where terrorism issues have kept people away from those markets. The sanctity of the field that have been retained and maintained, so Tuta Absoluta has not reached there in effect.”
Looking at the fact Tuta has really decimated Nigeria capacity to fill the gap in tomato demand, he warned that if the issue is not addressed that Nigeria is already looking at the first season currently wiped out by force.
He added: “We are already devastated to the extent of first season of tomato production in Nigeria. We didn’t have capacity to finally fend for it. If we don’t address it, we will have a situation where that we would have lost more seasons.
The reason, being that farmers usually and naturally would gravitate away from hybrid crop. Naturally if a farmer see that things are not happening in tomato and people are losing money, they leave tomato, and they will cut it off their leaves and wont they go into it. The more farmers going into a crop is situation you already know you have a bad situation on your hand.”