Yesterday, the FG said the pest, Tuta absoluta, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’, which is responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands, had invaded Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos.
Kaduna State agriculture commissioner Manzo Daniel said the state had declared a state of emergency over the outbreak of the moth that has destroyed over 80% of tomato farms in the state.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, also stated that the report that tomato processing factories had mopped-up tomato fruits in Nigeria was unfounded and untrue.
Ogbeh said, “The pest can also attack even pepper and Irish potato. So we are confronting something quite serious. But the good thing is that we are tackling it right now as experts will commence work immediately to attack this pest, which, if not dealt with, will create serious problems for food security in our country.”
More than 200 tomato farmers in the north have already suffered losses of more than N1bn from the disease. Experts have been sent to Kenya to develop a strategy to combat the brown moth, which lays eggs on tomato plants and develops into a hungry caterpillar that feeds on the leaves, stems and fruit.
More than 90% of 17,000 hectares of tomato fields outside Kano have been destroyed by the insect. A $200-million tomato processing factory built by Aliko Dangote has been forced to shut down because of the shortfall in supply.
Tuta absoluta, which originated in South America and spread to Europe and Africa, quickly develops resistance to pesticides, making it difficult to contain.