“Tuta Absoluta” popularly known as Tomato Ebola, has been identified as the epidemic responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands, leading to scarcity of the product in the nation.
The Nigerian government has disclosed that it is making efforts to contain the spread of the tomato ebola which has invaded six tomato producing states in Nigeria, including Plateau, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, and Lagos.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, assured Nigerians that the government was working with a team of experts from the United Kingdom who will deliver specialized insecticides for the control of the disease.
Audu Ogbeh said the highly reproductive nature of the tomato pest coupled with the favourable environment and lack of management knowledge for containment resulted in its spread like a wild fire without any challenge.
The minister further disclosed that Tuta Absoluta had high resistance to the commonly used insecticides and had the capacity of spreading to other crops like pepper and Irish potatoes.
He stated that the experts had, however, offered some varieties of tomato that grow well in the western part of the country as alternatives.
CropLife International, a group of agro-professionals, advocated the use of hazard-based approach rather than a risk-based methodology, as measures that could be used to check pests as well as manage pesticides in Nigeria.
The group, in a communique issued at the end of a two-day West and Central Africa Hub and Regulatory Workshop in Abuja, also called for the promotion and adoption of relevant biotechnologies in farming activities.
In the communique, it insisted on the need for safe and responsible use of pesticides as well as safe management of empty pesticide containers.
For almost a month now, the price of tomatoes has gone up due to scarcity of the product, with less than seven seeds selling for 500 Naira, the highest price of the commodity in history, leaving many families to depend largely on tinned tomatoes.