By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA-AS the country continues to experience adverse scarcity of tomato, the Federal Government, Wednesday, revealed that five states have been affected by a tomato disease called Tuta absoluta, locally called ‘tomato ebola’.
This was made known by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, during a press briefing on current scarcity of the commodity.
According to Ogbeh the tomato disease came into the country from Niger Republic via some flying insects called moth that bores into the fruits and stem of the tomato plant, and invaded into farms in Nigeria, which ravages them under 48 hours.
The five states affected by the tomato disease outbreak include Kastina, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, and Nasarawa. The disease has also spread to other tomato producing states in the North and as well as Lagos, Oyo and Ogun States.
He said: “It is absolute misconception that some tomato processing factories have mopped up tomato fruits in Nigeria, it is unfounded and untrue. Recently, a pest identified as Tuta Absoluta, locally called ‘tomato ebola’, a leaf miner/moth that bores hole into the fruits and stem causing enormous food loss, invaded tomato farms in Nigeria. Infestation by the tuta can ravage and wide out tomato farms within 48 hours.
“The pest is known world over as it originated from South America far back 1912 and have ravaged tomato farms in so many countries of the world till date including Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa.
“It entered Nigeria through Niger Republic into Kastina, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Nasarawa and other tomato producing states in the North, as well as Southern States of Lagos, Oyo and Ogun.”
According to the Minister pesticides cannot control the disease as it easily develops resistance.
Tuta has the capacity to reproduce 10-12 times in a year, in tranches of 250-300 young ones within 28 days, and it spreads like wild fire if there is no knowledge of containment and very difficult to control, and if not properly contained it could also affect pepper and Irish-potato.
He said the federal government will partner with the states and local government authority to ensure complete containment of the pest, and farmers will continue sustainable production of fruits for local consumption and provide raw materials for processing.
However, the Minister said the losses made by farmers have not been ascertained, but they will receive government support.
Meanwhile the Minister said experts in Tuta Absoluta containment from Agronet Nig Rep. of United Kingdom will be drafted in few days to affected states, whose profile was studied and how to deal with the disease.
“The team is expected to deliver the containment packs within the shortest possible time. This will enable farmers resume production activities with desired yield to reverse the precarious situation at hand.
The treatment is expensive, a plant may cost N5 to treat, and will be from the nursery. The fund for this will be from the budget but also from other sources as well, and we shall source the fund as from tomorrow (Wednesday). Soon there will be tomatoes for Nigerians because they don’t too long to grow.
“The intervention programme will involve containment packs for 50, 000ha to be used among the tomato producing states, capacity development on containment solution, and surveillance/monitoring in all the 774 local government areas”, he said.