The Federal Government on Tuesday said the pest, Tuta absoluta aka ‘Tomato Ebola’, which is responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands, had now invaded six states in Nigeria.
Nigeria spent about N80bn ($400m) annually importing tomato paste, sadly many of the imported products are substandard.
The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, who said this at a press briefing in Abuja, stated that the report that tomato processing factories had mopped-up tomato fruits in Nigeria was unfounded and false.
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.
The Government had started consulting with states and experts to fashion out measures to tackle the pest.
He added that, “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. We are bringing the commissioners and governors of states to jointly attack this pest, which, if not dealt with, will create serious problems for food security in our country.”
He stated that the experts had, however, offered some varieties of tomato that grow well in the western part of the country as alternatives.