Tuta Absoluta, also known as Tomato Ebola, is currently ravaging tomato farms in parts of the country, costing as much as N1.3 billion is economic dimensions, with scarcity looming.
The situation has led to a collaborative efforts by Federal Government; Nigeria Agribusiness Group, NABG; Hort Nigeria; Nigerian Horticultural Research Institute, NIHORT; Sygenta; International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, and others to tackle the dosease.
They raised the alarm over Tomato Ebola at a briefing by Horti Nigeria, supported by the Netherlands, adding that the ravaging insects were ruining huge investments of farmers in Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Gombe States.
The President, NABG, Emmanuel Ijewere, said stakeholders have resolved, therefore declared total ‘War’ on the invading insects.
Ijewere pointed out that the worrisome development cannot be left alone for the farmers as NABG was organising a stakeholders’ meeting to address the challenge, because it is the farmers who are the major sufferers and not even the processors, in the sense that they have invested heavily on their farms for tomato production.
He said: “Tuta Absoluta is an insect that has ravaged tomato farms and from what we have discovered, the insect is very devastating to the tomato and is so smart.
“The insects have decided to build their homes under the leaves and when the insecticide is sprayed it doesn’t affect them.
“The affected states are mainly Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Gombe, but the insects don’t need visa to go to any other states as far as the conditions are right.
“Climate change has enhanced the movement of pests around the field; the warm environment helps them to spread wide, increased humidity allow these pests to thrive, hence the new outbreak of Tuta Absoluta.
“We are glad to have the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development here and we are working together to solve this problem.
“The bottom line is that the biggest sufferers are farmers who are already in trouble, and they have invested in buying inputs, and it is time to harvest and there is nothing to harvest.
“It is ‘war’ we are going to declare against these insects and all of us here will be providing the ‘weapons’ to achieve it.”
Also in a remark, the Director, Horticulture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Deola Lordbanjoce, explained that, “This current crisis with Tuta Absoluta started from Galama Local Government in Kano.
“When it was reported we started our investigation and we found out that about 300 hectares in that Local Government alone were affected by this infestation.
“And from our end we need to look into the economics of what we are talking about.
“Then we got to know economically that the farmers in that local government arising from the infestation of Tuta Absoluta may have lost about N1.3 billion.
“We are working in collaboration with the National Tomato Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria every time and investigating what is happening in other states.
“And we have our records already and we are working on two things; the Ministry is convening a stakeholders’ meeting, which may be merged with what NABG is planning.
“Number two, the Ministry is sourcing for funds seriously and interventions to solve critical problems of Tuta Absoluta and we are making some money available to NIHORT to produce the hybrid seeds they just developed and to procure some IPM packages to control Tuta Absoluta.
“Our tomato need as a country is about 5.4 million metric tones and we cannot meet the 1.3 million metric tonnes deficit, and now that we have Tuta Absoluta that means the deficit will rise to three metric tonnes.
“That is a crisis if that is allowed and will aggravate the cost of purchase by consumers, which will indeed go high.”
The Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, NIHORT, Dr Mohammad Attanda, represented by the Head, Biopesticide Center, NIHORT, Oladigbolu Abiola, recalled that in 2015, the pest caused monumental destruction and disruption of the tomato value chain.
“The sole dependence on synthetic insecticides for the control of Tuta has resulted in development of resistance – a change in the sensitivity of Tuta population to synthetic pesticides, resulting in the failure of a correct application of the pesticides to control Tuta as is being experienced now, hence aggravating outbreaks whilst the food security of the nation is threatened.”
However, amongst recommendations made by the NIHORT boss include; Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to incorporate NIHORT sustainable Tuta Integrated Management Package for tomato production in the national tomato policy to stem the tide of this occurrence;
Farmers should strive to adopt the planting of NIHORT’s recently released tomato seeds bred for high yield, tolerance to fusarium, good shelf life and nutrition qualities.
The Director General, DG, NABG, Dr Manzo Maigari, recalled that in 2016 and 2017, the level of Tuta Absoluta’s devastation reached an epidemic level, but NABG along with other partners proffered some solutions.
“Today it (Tuta Absoluta) is back and we have to call on these major stakeholders to come together so that we can agree on the way forward.
“We have also seen the entrance of a new stakeholder, Horti Nigeria, funded by the Dutch Government, and they also have a regime of practices that has proven beneficial to farmers because in the clusters that are managed by them so far there is resistance by the Tuta Absoluta.
“Therefore, this adds to the bouquet of solutions we want to present to farmers so that the whole thing will have an integrated approach,” Maigari stated.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General, National Tomato Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Sani Danladi, lamented the huge losses over 500 farmers have incurred in Kano, while they are yet to know how many farmers are being affected in Katsina, Jigawa, Kaduna and Gombe.
Danladi said: “This ‘war’ is not only for the government and farmers but for all Nigerians.
“When Tuta Absoluta enters the farmer’s farm it destroys everything there within three days no matter how big or small it is.
“It is very devastating because it destroys all investment in the farm.
“Looking at the quantum of investing on one hectare of farmland to produce tomato it costs not less than N1.7 million.
“It is not a small amount of money farmers are losing every year of this disease manifests.
“It is not occuring early in the season but when temperature rises to high degrees and that is why some farmers are afraid in going into late transplanting of tomato.
“From January to March, tomato is very cheap in Nigeria but from April upward it becomes very scarce because farmers are afraid of doing late transplanting.
“This year the devastation is very high because we had low production and the disease came and ravaged all produced by the farmers and that is why we have come out to cry and tell the government and Nigerians that on this issue we have to take a holistic approach to proffer solutions.
“We have reported it to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, NABG and other stakeholders on how can we stop the spread of this disease because we are afraid it might spread to other States.
“This year more than 300 hectares have been destroyed by this disease which affected more than 500 farmers only in Kano State, but also affected farmers in Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa and Gombe States, and we are still collecting the data from the remaining states, and that is why tomato is very scarce now.
“Now 90 per cent of tomato in Kano has gone because of Tuta Absoluta devastation.
“It is different from caterpillars but this one is very devastating as you can’t eat it because is dangerous to human health.”