In the face of the lingering effects of the scarcity of tomato in Nigeria, the authorities of the Benson Idahosa University in Edo State have on Wednesday stated that it has concluded plans to produce 800,000 tonnes of the red fruit.
This is coming barely a day after the Federal Government announced that six states have been affected by a tomato disease called Tuta absoluta, also known as “Tomato Ebola”.
On Tuesday, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbe, had stated that the pest, which was responsible for the massive destruction of tomatoes in farmlands, had spread to Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos.
According to Ogbeh, the tomato disease came into the country from Niger Republic through some flying insects called moth and then invaded into farms in Nigeria, which ravages them under 48 hours.
His words: “It is absolute misconception that some tomato processing factories have mopped up tomato fruits in Nigeria, it is unfounded and untrue. Recently, a pest identified as Tuta Absoluta, locally called ‘tomato ebola’, a leaf miner/moth that bores hole into the fruits and stem causing enormous food loss, invaded tomato farms in Nigeria. Infestation by the tuta can ravage and wide out tomato farms within 48 hours.
“The pest is known world over as it originated from South America far back 1912 and have ravaged tomato farms in so many countries of the world till date including Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa.
“It entered Nigeria through Niger Republic into Kastina, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Nasarawa and other tomato producing states in the North, as well as Southern States of Lagos, Oyo and Ogun.”
Following the scarcity, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Ernest Izevbigie, said that tomatoes would be produced annually by the institution’s Faculty of Agriculture.
At a press briefing in Benin, Izevbigie said:
“We are making an audacious statement that Benson Idahosa University is poised to produce 800,000 tonnes of tomatoes to ameliorate the present shortage in the supply of tomatoes in Nigeria in the next one year.
“We are at a risk of food insecurity; that is what is happening now. If you have food security, you will have plenty of food available. But food security in this country is being threatened.”