So, this moon-walking, gentle-looking guy, na im take our tomato-joy and tomato-jos away…this guy?? Wow. Tuta Absoluta, popular now as Tuta ‘Ebola’, the guy responsible for turning our “Jollof rice to Jelloff”
The Federal Government on Tuesday said the pest, Tuta absoluta, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’, which is responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands, had invaded six states in Nigeria. It also disclosed that Nigeria spent about N80bn ($400m) annually importing tomato paste, adding that many of the imported products were substandard.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, who said this during a press briefing in Abuja, stated that the report that tomato processing factories had mopped-up tomato fruits in Nigeria was unfounded and untrue.
According to him, 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. This development had led to the destruction of tomato fruits in Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos.
Ogbeh, however, stated that the Federal Government had started consulting with states and experts in other to fashion out measures to tackle the pest.
Here are 10 important things Nigerians should know about the ravaging tomato pest:
– 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.
– According to the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, the pest came into the country from Niger Republic and manifests a powerful infestation that could make it impossible for the country to grow tomatoes, if not dealt with.
– ‘Tomato Ebola’ is the disease responsible for the massive destruction of tomatoes in farmlands in Nigeria which has made the price of Tomatoes sky-rocketed in the past few weeks
– Federal government has engaged experts to find solution to the spread of “Tomato Ebola,” a pest currently ravaging tomato farms in the country
– Federal Government has confirmed that the pest has attacked six states
– Ordinary pesticides cannot deal with this `tuta absoluta’ because it has a way of multiplying so fast. It produces almost 250 offspring per cycle
– The pest can also attack even pepper and Irish potato
– Kaduna state government under the leadership of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has also declared state of emergency on the pest for destroying over 80 percent of tomato farms in the state
– The tomato shortage caused by the outbreak has caused prices to go up “astronomically”, a wholesale basket containing hundreds of tomatoes now sells for 42,000 naira ($212, 186 euros), up from 300 to 1,500 naira before the outbreak.
– Signs and symptoms
Common signs and symptoms of Tuta absoluta on fruit and stems include:
- puncture marks,
- abnormal shape,
- exit holes,
- rot due to secondary infective agents, and
- frass (fine powdery material that plant-eating insects pass as waste after they digest plant parts).
He stated that the experts had, however, offered some varieties of tomato that grow well in the western part of the country as alternatives.
Proffering measures that could be used to check pests as well as manage pesticides in Nigeria, CropLife International, a group of agro-professionals, advocated the use of hazard-based approach rather than a risk-based methodology.
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.
During the workshop, CropLife got the support of the Senate towards enacting of a pesticide legislation to mitigate the problem of misuse and address importation of pesticides including marketing, storage, application and use, among other provisions.
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