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Combating ‘tomato ebola’ menace

FG has commenced efforts in its response as containment solution is already being sought from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations; intervention which will entail the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Tuta will soon commence.  

Pests attack on food crops is not new. Our current experience with tuta absoluta, otherwise known as ‘tomato ebola’, is  also not new. There were reports of its attack June last year. Records have it that a total of one million hectares of land is used annually for cultivation of tomato varieties within Nigeria, and this makes the country the second largest producer of tomato in Africa.

But poor farm management, quality of pre-harvest and  shelf-life of postharvest tomato fruit is impeded by biotic and socioeconomic constraints, which affect its overall nutritional value and account for  over 30 per cent of yield loss/waste. The cause: Pre-harvest crop deterioration mostly due to pests and diseases affecting quantity and quality of marketable tomato fruit.

High profitability from bumper harvest and seasonal inflation, especially during rainy season-induced scarcity draw large numbers of farmers to tomato planting. Tomato accounts for about 18 percent of the average daily consumption of vegetables in Nigeria. It is a very important soup ingredient that housewives can hardly do without. They love the taste it gives to their soup, the fullness it gives and of course the attractive red colour it gives to the soup. Tomato fruit is fresh; canned tomato is not.  Housewives prefer fresh tomato, which to them is better and more nourishing than processed tomato. But tomato ebola has come to spoil their joy. These  Nigerian housewives are now switching to pastes, on account of the ravaging insect pest which has destroyed an estimated 40 percent of anticipated harvest, causing prices to shoot up by 105 percent, from N17, 000 to N35, 000 per basket. Nigerian fresh tomato bulk sellers have resorted to purchasing the produce from the Republic of Benin and Cameroon, in an effort to bridge the shortfall in Nigeria.


Federal Ministry of Agric’s response: Fallout of global trade

The spread of the insect pest of tomato, known as Tuta absoluta, is symptomatic of problems trailing globalisation, which entails movement of goods and human services. Under global paradigm of tree trade, many invasive plants, diseases and pests of plants and animals spread easily. This is one of the great prices nations of the world now pay while exchanging plant and animal products through trade.


For a country that has been dependent on importation of assorted foods, both raw and processed, this is one of the undesirable outcomes. Nigeria, no doubt, became a host to this pest through international trade as many mega retail chains and their outlets in Nigeria have reportedly been selling imported vegetables, including raw tomato. This could give a signal as to the route Tuta took into this country.


South America, Europe have it too

Major tomato-producing nations of the world, including South America and the European nations, have been associated with the spread of Tuta, an insect with damaging effects on tomato foliage, which affect production and plant survival.  Tuta absoluta is a species of moth in family Gelechiidae known by the common names tomato leafminer and South American tomato moth.


Tuta is well known as a serious pest of tomato crops in Europe and South America. The pest was first reported in Nigeria about a year ago. And, since it was noticed, it became apparent that the measures applied by countries in successfully coping with Tuta invasion will need to be studied and adopted.


Use of chemicals and its limitations

In an attempt to curtail the Tuta problem, farmers need to know that the use of chemical pesticides have risks and benefits, which must be carefully weighed before application. While the use of chemicals may be of help, its limitation has to be weighed against the implication on climate and other friendly insects and animals in the wild, as well as acceptable chemical residue limits in the tomato fruits in terms of food safety for human consumption.


Nigeria’s response through FAO

The Nigerian government has commenced efforts in its response as containment solution is already being sought from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. This request has been accepted by FAO and will soon commence intervention, which will entail the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Tuta.


Unscrupulous importers

For those who have shown concerns about possible devastation of tomato production in Nigeria, it is important to emphasise that globalisation, for Nigeria, until recently, meant an annual outflow of billions of naira on tomato paste importation. The imported tomato paste brought in by unscrupulous importers, had been adjudged to be largely of poor quality, despite the deprivation of local tomato growers a great opportunity to be in productive business.


Local production of tomato paste

The long-awaited industrialisation and local processing of tomato is coming with an initial adjustment in the supply and demand profile with the commencement of operation of the two major tomato processing companies recently in Nigeria. This could dramatically affect the volume of raw tomato traded in the open market in the short run.


Limitless opportunities for tomato growers

On the long run, however, industrial production of tomato opens limitless opportunities for tomato growers to produce diversify their market base as they produce huge volume to satisfy both industrial and household uses as the industrial processors begin to organise their own supply chains, dealing directly with their own outgrower farmers and in-house supply mechanisms. In many cases, those produced for household uses offer even more attractive prices as they are produced to consumers’ preference. This means those for the mass markets retain their niche.


It is yet to be determined how many thousands of tons locally produced tomatoes these high capacity processing companies are already taking from the traditional tomato markets and the magnitude of impact this is already making on the quantum of supply and the pricing in the open markets. It is certain, however, that the outlook of the market, both for industrial users and household consumers, remain bright as the processors settle down to business.


Adjusting to the huge raw material demands of these big tomato processors, including those of relatively smaller mills, will require growing a lot more tomato so as not to upset the raw tomato business or hurt the consumers of the raw tomatoes in terms of availability and price. This should not be muddled up with the Tuta invasion problems as those countries with Tuta are still producing for home use and for export. Government will respond to these challenges speedily and the production, supply and pricing in the markets will be stabilised.


Past governments slip

No past government has taken any specific or practical measure to address production side of tomato on a national scale, neither have the tomato-producing states addressed the issues of annual seasonal fluctuation in supply and pricing. The rising demands by industrial users, however, have brought the need to begin these interventions to light. This will entail working with the governments of the various states where tomato is produced on a large scale so that the livelihoods of the small farmers producing these will be safeguarded.


As Nigeria tackles the problem of Tuta, the synergistic involvement of the various stakeholders will go a great length in overcoming the problem.


Lagos Chamber inaugurates Education, Printing and Publishing Group

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has concluded plans to inaugurate its newly-formed Education, Printing and Publishing Group. The inaugural meeting, which is scheduled to hold at the LCCI Conference and Exhibition Centre on Thursday 26th of May, 2016, is borne out of the urgent need to stimulate growth-generating activities and encourage investment in the sector.

Nike Akande, President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said: “the major reason for the creation of the LCCI Education, Printing and Publishing Group is to give operators in the sector a viable platform to engage the government on key policies affecting them and exchange ideas on the growth and development of the sector.

“The objectives of the group amongst others include: advocacy at every level to government and its relevant agencies, value-addition to members of the group and sustainable growth of the sector” Akande disclosed.


NAFDAC to ban importation of tomato paste from China?

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) may ban the importation of tomato paste from China if  we go by the startling revelation from a research carried out by the Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN) office of the agency

According to Sahara reporters, the tomato pastes which are imported from China, fall below the required standard.

The minimum requirement specified by the Codex Alimentarius Standards and Nigerian Industrial Standards is that tomato pastes should have at least 28% tomato content.

The FSAN research revealed that out of 316 packs of tomato pastes purchased in Lagos and tested, 218 of them had less than the minimum requirement (28%) of tomato in them.

The research also accused tomato paste companies of working with Chinese companies to sell unwholesome tomato pastes to Nigerians.

FSAN has also called for the ban in the importation of tomato pastes from China.

NAFDAC recently  shut 16 herbal medicine facilities and seized products in Onitsha, Anambra.

Siaka Momoh, a media consultant, is Publisher/CEO ‘The Real Sector’ a monthly digital magazine; and, Contact:; 08061396410

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