Stakeholders give reasons for tomato scarcity, proffer solutions
The scarcity of tomatoes and hike in its price nationwide had been of great concern to many Nigerians this year.
The perishable vegetable, majorly cultivated during dry season, had its price astronomically up due to many factors and in many states, unavailable.
Consequently, stakeholders gave reasons for the scarcity and the hike in price, as they made suggestions on how to tackle the dearth of the nutrient-packed food item, while government put more efforts to tackle the problem.
The Kebbi chapter of All Farmers Association (AFAN) attributed the scarcity to the lack of improved variety of seedlings to grow the commodity in commercial quantity.
The Secretary of the Association, Alhaji Muhammad Idris, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Birnin Kebbi that farmers in the state produced large
quantity of tomatoes but lacked modern methods of its cultivation.
He said ``there are modern varieties of tomato seedlings which, if made available to farmers, it will improve yield.
``The seeds currently being planted by farmers had been recycled in the past 20 years; tomato farming is easy but the problem is the lack of consultants to assist farmers on better ways to grow and manage the commodity.
``Traders who come to Kebbi to buy tomatoes now go to Kaduna, Zaria and Zuru to purchase the commodity, where the yield is at least better than here.’’
On his part, the Chairman of the state’s Association of Tomatoes Farmers, Alhaji Abubakar Gado, said the tomatoes scarcity was the result of pest called ``tuta absoluta” that destroyed many farms.
In Kaduna State, where the tomato pest destruction was worst, farmers had solicited for assistance from government to minimise their losses.
Some of the farmers said the tuta absoluta pest could destroy farms within hours, adding that they harvested nothing from their fields as a result of the outbreak of the pest and were now living in penury.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Government had declared a state of emergency on tomato to tackle the outbreak.
Dr Manzo Maigari, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry, told NAN that the state government had dispatched officials to Kenya, where an extarct from a plant was said to be effective in killing the pest.
Maigari lamented that although there was a similar outbreak in the state on a smaller scale last year, there was however no documentation and measures taken to tackle it.
The commissioner, however, said government would open up more tomato farms and irrigation fields, equipped with modern facilities to enhance all-year-round production in the 13 tomato producing local government areas of the state.
But the AFAN Chairman in the state, Malam Nuhu Aminu, said the Association had documented 700 tomato farms in seven local government areas destroyed by the pest.
He said 500 other individual farmers with large tomoto farms were also affected by the outbreak in Ikara, Makarfi, Kubau, Anchau, Kudan, Soba and Lere loca government areas and appealed to the state and the Federal government, as well as corporate bodies to interven by assisting the affected farmers because of the magnitude of the outbreak.
The AFAN chairman said that the disease had caused so much devastation, especially among women farmers who lived on tomato production for survival.
He said most of the farms were not covered by any kind of insurance which would have assisted the farmers to recover some of the losses.
In Kano State, farmers were also asking the government for quick intervention to overcome the disease, and support them to recover the losses.
Malam Surajo Ado, one of the farmers affected in Garun Malam Local Government, said government should find solution to the disease and support farmers to mitigate the effect of the devastation.
He explained that many researchers had visited some of the affected farms, and expressed optimism that the research findings would trigger government action.
Meanwhile, the Kano State Government said it had procured pesticides for the treatment of tuta absoluta from a South African firm.
Dr Nasiru Gawuna, the state’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, told NAN that the pestcide was developed after the company conducted research on affected irrigation farms across the state.
Stakeholders in Nasarawa State have called on the Federal Government to distribute improved tomatoes seedling to farmers in order to curtail the sudden scarcity and hike in price of tomatoes in the country.
The stakeholders told NAN in Lafia that the scarcity led to hike in price of the commodity by more than 800 per cent in the state.
Amadu Oyigbenu, Head of Department (HOD) Agriculture Education, College of Education Akwanga (COEA), Nasarawa State, said the scarcity was due to the outbreak of pest in tomato farms across the country.
According to him, the immediate remedy to the scarcity is that government should subsidise and make available improved seedlings to farmers to enable them return to farm.
He added that ``tomato farmers in the country have already suffered a lot, so, government needs to come to their aid.
``The reason why most perishable products such as tomatoes, mangoes, among others, are not found all year in the country is because of the absence of facilities to process and preserve them,’’ he added.
On his part, Mauzu Ishaq, the Nasarawa State Chairman of AFAN attributed the scarcity to the outbreak of the pest and the lack of genuine political will to assist farmers in the country.
He said ``we are now in May and government is yet to supply fertilizer and other farming inputs to farmers in the country, so, how can we boost output?.’’
He therefore appealed to government to ensure timely distribution of fertilizer and other inputs to farmers and grant loans to farmers in order to boost production.
Also, Wamba Abraham-Dasu, a staff of the Benue River Basin, said farmers should take dry season farming seriously in order to boost the production of tomatoes and ensure its availability in the country.
He advocated the establishment of green houses in every local government area in the country where tomato seedling could be raised and supplied to farmers.
In Delta, Mr Jerry Ossai, the immediate past Chairman of AFAN, had urged government and tomatoes farmers in the country to visit research institutes to find out what the institutes had done in terms of improved varieties.
He advised that research institutes should educate farmers on varieties of tomatoes that would be suitable for the various regions in the country for optimum yield.
Ossai, who also attributed the astronomical rise in tomato price and scarcity across the country to the rainy season, noted that ``this is not the season of tomatoes, they hardly produce well in this season.
``And apart from the tuta absoluta pest which ravaged tomatoes in the northern parts of the country, there are other diseases which are prevalent during the rainy season.
``And the only way to overcome this challenge, which is not just happening for the first time, is to visit research institute to get varieties of tailored and suitable tomatoes which will be appropriate for the different regions.’’
Meanwhile, the medium basket of tomatoes sold at N8,000 more than one month ago was now sold between N20,000 and N25,000.
The AFAN Chairman in Abia, Chief Dunlop Okoro, urged the Federal Government to invest and use advanced technology in preserving not only tomatoes but any surplus food produced in the country.
Okoro also urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to conduct regular field trainings for farmers on better ways of preserving food produce in order to boost availability all year round.
According to him, adequate preservation of various food items will avert any kind of state of emergency.
However, Mr Albert Pereowei, an Agriculture Economist, told NAN that the reason a lot of tomato plants died in the north was because of the acidity in rain water.
Pereowei, who decried the rise in the price of tomatoes, called for massive agriculture development in other parts of the country.
Mr Ezekile Ogbianko, the Bayelsa Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), who decried the astronomical increase in the price of tomato said ``to overcome the situation, cultivation should be extended to other parts of the country.
``You know, the tomato plant is based in the North, I am suggesting to Federal Government to embark on training of persons in such area of farming.
``We have land that can grow tomato in large quantity; so, let the cultivation be extended to other parts of the country.’’
In Port Harcourt, consumers had decried the recent scarcity of the staple food item and urged relevant authorities to evolve a programme to boost its cultivation.
Some members of the Fruit and Vegetable Marketers Association in Port Harcourt, who decried the hike in price, said the situation was same in Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Edo and dealers now rely on supplies from neighbouring Ghana and Cameroun.
Mr Victor Eze, the Chairman of Fruit and Vegetable Marketers Association in Rivers said ``tomatoes are now scarce, we import from Ghana. But Ghana is off season now so we buy from Cameroon.’’
Mr Emmanuel Odigie, the Edo Chairman of AFAN told NAN in Benin that the weather in the area was suitable for the cultivation of tomatoes and called on farmers to urgently embark on the cultivation of tomatoes to mitigate the scarcity.
Mr David Akpanoko, a tomatoes seller in Aduwawa market in Benin said that the scarcity of fresh tomatoes produced in Nigeria was alarming.
Akpanoko said that the scarcity was occasioned by pest infestation and seasonal nature of the product, stressing that government should intervene to save the situation.