Wednesday, May 25, 2016 8:27 am
*The pest is why tomato is expensive in the market
The Federal Government has engaged experts to find solution to the spread of `tuta absoluta,’ a pest currently ravaging tomato farms in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, made this known at a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday.
Ogbeh said the pest (tuta absoluta) was discovered in South America in 1912 where it ravaged many farms before it spread to Europe and then to Asia and now to East and West Africa.
He said the pest came into Nigeria from Niger Republic, saying that it is a very powerful infestation that could make it impossible for the country to grow tomatoes, if not dealt with.
Ogbeh said the price of tomatoes had gone so high that a basket now sells for between N35, 000 to N42, 000 in Lagos.
He said that many housewives could not afford to buy the soup ingredient any longer.
“We have called in experts and we have studied the profile of what we have to do with the pest.
“Unfortunately, ordinary pesticides cannot deal with this `tuta absoluta’ because it has a way of multiplying so fast.
“It produces almost 250 offspring per cycle; we are in contact with a group which had dealt with this in other countries and they are offering us solutions.
“In the next few days we shall get to work on this and begin treatment.
“It is going to be quite expensive as it will cost about five naira per tomato plant, “ he said.
The minister said the pest had not spread across the country as it is still restricted to Katsina, Kano, Gombe, Jigawa and Plateau States for now.
Ogbeh said the treatment would have to be at the level of the nursery before planting so that the tomatoes can resist the disease.
The minister explained that the pest could also attack pepper and Irish potatoes, stressing that the country was combating a very serious disease.
He said the experts had also offered a variety of tomato, which guarantees high yields under high rainfall, pointing out that the variety had been tested in some parts of the South-West.
He assured Nigerians that the Federal Government in collaboration with the State Governments were doing everything possible to stem the spread of the pest.
In Kaduna, a state of emergency on tomatoes has been declared as the pest affected over 200 farms in the State.
The State Government has also dispatched officials to seek intervention from Kenya, where there is said to be an extract from a plant that kills the insects.
Dr Manzo Maigari, the State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry, announced this during an interactive session with members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Kaduna.
Maigari said more than 200 tomato farms had been affected in three local government areas, with an estimated loss of N1 billion.
The commissioner said eight other states in the north had been affected by blight caused by insect that destroys the plant within three hours.
He said it caused the dramatic rise in the price of tomato to about N42,000 per basket.
According to him, the state government dispatched officials of the ministry to seek intervention from Kenya, where there is said to be an extract from a plant that kills the insects.
Maigari said there was a similar outbreak in the state on a smaller scale last year but that there was no concrete measures taken to tackle it.
“There was no documentation on it and when we came in we did not know about it, the reason why it has hit us hard.
“It is a serious issue we are dealing with in the state and other states affected in the region.’’
Maigari said the Dangote Tomato paste factory had temporarily closed down production following the outbreak of the blight causing loss of thousands of jobs.
He, however, said that the government had taken other measures to address the issue