There are strong indications that farmers may have successfully contained the menace of Tuta Absoluta, the pest which ravaged tomato farms across the country in 2015 and 2016.
The indication emerged after lorry loads of tomatoes have been arriving at the Mile 12 market in Lagos, a major tomato market, on a daily basis.
A visit to the Mile 12 Market on Friday showed that over 30 articulated trucks, loaded with fresh tomatoes, were off-loading their consignments, while more than 10 trucks were waiting on the road.
The influx of the trucks caused a minor gridlock on the road, as other vehicles, pedestrians, wheelbarrow pushers and load carriers struggled for the right of way.
Mr Femi Odusanya, a consultant to Mile 12 Arewa Perishable Foodstuff Market Association, said that tomato farmers had been able to combat the menace of the pest, Tuta Absoluta.
“Tomato farmers did not find it funny when the pest invaded their farms between 2015 and 2016.
“What you are witnessing today is an indication that farmers have been successful in fighting Tuta Absoluta infestation of tomato farms in places like Kaduna, Jos, Kano, Katsina and Zaria.
“They have been able to achieve this feat, in combination with Federal Ministry of Agriculture and agriculture research institutes.
“There has been some synergy, education and training for farmers and tomato sellers in markets on how to deal with Tuta Absoluta; they also received training on Good Handling Practices (GHP) at tomato farms.
“At least, a 40kg. raft basket of tomatoes now sells for between N1,500 and N 3,500.
“This is unlike the same period in 2016 when the same 40kg. raft basket sold as high as N45,000 because of inadequate tomato supplies because of the Tuta Absoluta plague,’’ he said.
Odusanya said that farmers were now having bumper harvests, adding that tomato sales had consequently increased.
He said that the tomato farms of the association in Katsina had also flourished, thereby boosting tomato supplies and sales.
He said that the Mile 12 Market was also a centre for off-takers who procured over 900,000 tonnes of tomato for distribution to other states in the South-West geopolitical zone and countries like the Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana.
Odusanya recalled that at the peak of the crisis in March 2016, when a 40kg. raft basket cost around N47,000, the traders decided to alleviate the consumers’ plight by importing tomatoes from neighbouring countries.
He said that the traders adopted the strategy so as to augment the shortfall in tomato production in the country and force down prices.
Tomato farmers in Kano State alone lost over N2bn to Tuta Absoluta in 2016.