...Redifining Journalism for Development

BREAKTHROUGH With Professor MK Othman


Peeping At Research And Development Centres: IAR, NAERLS And NIHORT’s Successful Fight Against Tuta Absoluta On Tomato Production In Nigeria

Tomato plants

Nigeria is ranked as the 14th largest producer of tomatoes in the world. It is also the largest producer of tomatoes in sub-Saharan Africa. Ironically, Nigeria is the eighth largest importer of tomato paste in the world after Iraq and Japan. This is because Nigeria could not produce enough to meet the local demand. For instance in 2009, the Federal Government had to spend a wolfing sum of 16 billion Naira to import tomato paste to support the local demand of the country.Tomato is an important crop in Nigeria responsible for the economic growth of many communities. It is consumed daily by millions of households in Nigeria.
Currently, the production is estimated to be about 2 million tons of fresh tomato annually while the national demand by the consumers for fresh tomatoes in Nigeria is estimated to be between 2 and 3 million tons every year. The tomato paste importation is estimated to be as much as 300,000 tons annually from China alone, amounting to millions of USD from the country’s foreign exchange. The reason for the massive importation of tomato paste into the country is directly linked to colossal loss of production as over 50% is lost due to post production challenges. The challenges ranged from poor storage system, poor transportation to lack of processing enterprises. This has made the tomato marketing as the most elastic and volatile market compared to any other agricultural produce in Nigeria. A measure of tomato costing at N300 for instance, can be sold at N3,000 in the same market within one to two months interval.Despite this large production, the tomato production in Nigeria is still below its potential as reported by many research works. The production is beset with many problems, such as diseases, nematodes, insect pests, high flower drop, all these resulting in low yield and poor quality fruits. Every year Nigeria loses about 750,000 tons of tomatoes due to post production and poor food supply chain of the commodity. Certainly, this costs millions of Naira that could make different to the producers and other chain actors along the tomato value chain. It also leads to the inadequacy of tomatoes in the country thereby causing the price volatility. Perhaps, these problems were the driving factor for the international business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote to invest millions US Dollar in the tomato industry.
Few years ago, Aliko Dangote decided totake part in the production and processing of tomato in Nigeria. Dangote, a household name, a multi billionaire has been the richest man not only in Nigeria but the whole of Africa. He opened a tomato processing facility in Gafan village in Kano State. The venture was reported to worth about $20 million investment. According to the plan, the tomato processing plant in Kano should gradually replace the tomato paste importation and meet the local demand through production increase, reduction in tomato wastage and enhancement of income of the tomato producers. The new processing tomato plant was built by a Swiss Company. The plant has the capacity to process and produce about 400,000 tons of tomato every year. The lofty objectives of Dangote were sure to succeed as there are huge tomato markets in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries. In addition, the investment is seen as multi solutions capable of overcoming the problems of tomato production and supply chain. It was at the point of production commencement of Dangote’s tomato plant that a tomato ravaging pest named “Tuta Absoluta” visited Nigerian tomato farms. It was like a thunder falling on a tree; sudden and devastating with colossal destruction.
Tomato fruits

Tutaabsoluta (Lepidoptera; Gelechidae), popularly called “Tomato Ebola”, is a leaf miner, a devastating pest that could ravage the whole tomato production and reduce it to near zero in a very short time (within 48 hours)..It is also very difficult to control as it has a high mutation capacity with the ability to develop a resistance to commonly used insecticides. Tuta is a noctuid moth; active in the night and before the day dawns. It mates lay eggs during this active period and can lay as many as 260 eggs individually on the underside of the leaves during its life cycle of 7 to 9 days. Tomato is the main host plant, but Tuta Absoluta also attacks other crop plants including potato, eggplant, pepper, cucumber and other vegetables. It is found also on many weeds. Tuta Absoluta originates from South America, Peru and was first detected in Spain in 2006. It was later found in France, Italy, Greece and Malta. This pest was reported in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya in 2009. It arrived Turkey In 2010. The advance of Tuta Absoluta continued with exponential proportion to the east to reach Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. Further advances southward reached Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and the rest of the Gulf States. In Africa, Tuta Absoluta moved from Egypt to Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. Its presence was also reported in some West African countries like Senegal. Ghana and Niger.
Disease causing moth in a tomato fruit

It was first reported in Nigeria possibly in 2014 but became a serious problem in 2015. During the 2015/2016 dry season, Tuta Absoluta was virtually reported from all the states of the North where tomatoeswere being produced. The North West and Eastern states of Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Katsina and Sokoto, were all visited by the destructive moth.
Tuta Absoluta causes losses of up to 100 % of the production through mining of leaves and burrowing into tomato fruits.Nigerians were severely affected by the scarcity of tomatoes during the ravage of this nocturnal moth. Tomato,a key ingredient in most of the delicacies prepared in many Nigerian households became a scared commodity, where it was available, became unaffordable to many Nigerians. The price of the fruit increased by more than 400 percent; Nigerians were paying around 200 naira for the same quantity of tomatoes that was hitherto 50 naira few months ago.The economic loss caused by Tuta Absoluta was beyond imagination as there was no reported study on the monetary loss to the nation. However, report from Today, an online newspaper indicated that Tomato growers in Kano State lost over N2 billion to Tuta Absoluta, the pest which ravaged their tomato farms in 2016.
Affected tomato fruit

The paper quoted the Kano state Commissioner of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Alhaji Nasiru Gawuna, made the revelation when the governments of Kano, Jigawa and Kaduna states were signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Rockefeller Foundation on the implementation of the Yield Wise project. The Yield Wise project is a three-year programme that is aimed at reducing post-harvest losses in the tomato value chain in the country. He said that the state government was able to estimate the loss after setting up a committee under Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority to evaluate the damage caused by Tuta Absoluta to tomato farms across the state. “We are happy to say that this season, a lot has been done and we have not heard any reports of an outbreak of the disease,’’ he was quoted by the newspaper. Kano state, with its vast irrigated land and the biggest public owned irrigation project; Kano River Irrigation project (KRIP) is reputed to lead other states in tomato production. If N2 billion Naira worth of tomatoes were lost then the nation must have lost N5 billion to N6 billion naira due to Tuta Absoluta in 2016.  This is because there are 9 major tomato producing states in Nigeria. They are Kano. Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Sokoto and Taraba states, respectively. How was the fight against Tuta Absoluta won in 2016? What were the joint roles of Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), National Agricultural Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS)? What was the role of National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) in the fight against Tuta?
Affected tomato fruits

To be continued next week

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

1 Comment
  1. Yusuf says

    A very educative article. The efforts of the research centres and that of Kano State is commendable. What actions are being taken by other tomato producing states in the country? Are there internal sources supporting the efforts towards combating the disease apart from the assistance from Rockefeller Foundation? How can Nigeria prevent future reoccurrence of the tomato Ebola? Thank you for this important message.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.