Kaduna state government on Tuesday declared a state of
emergency after moths destroyed swathes of tomato fields,
threatening supplies of the country's leading staple food.
Nigerian farmers describe the outbreak as 'tomato Ebola' after the
deadly disease that devastated West Africa in 2014.
The news from Kaduna state saw Nigerians voice fears on social
media they would not be able to make jollof rice -- a beloved
national dish made with tomato paste -- because of the scarcity.
Tomato prices have shot up as a result of the moth Tuta absoluta,
adding to existing hardships from a 67 percent rise in the price of
petrol and spiralling inflation in Africa's largest economy.
"We have declared a state of emergency over the outbreak of a
moth that has destroyed over 80 percent of tomato farms in the
state," Kaduna state agriculture commissioner Manzo Daniel told
The tomato shortage caused by the outbreak has caused prices to
go up "astronomically", he added.
A wholesale basket containing hundreds of tomatoes now sells for
42,000 naira ($212, 186 euros), up from 300 to 1,500 naira before
the outbreak, he said.
"This is only the beginning of a disaster if we don't take drastic
measures because the disease is fast spreading across the north,"
More than 200 tomato farmers in the region have already suffered
losses of more than one billion naira from the disease, he said.
Experts have been sent to Kenya to develop a strategy to combat
the brown moth, which lays eggs on tomato plants and develops
into a hungry caterpillar that feeds on the leaves, stems and fruit.
More than 90 percent of 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of tomato
fields outside the northern city of Kano have been destroyed by the
insect, according to the state's agriculture officials.
A $200-million tomato processing factory built by Nigerian
billionaire Aliko Dangote has been forced to shut down because of
the shortfall in supply, managing director Abdulkareem Kaita said.
Tuta absoluta, which originated in South America and spread to
Europe and Africa, quickly develops resistance to pesticides,
making it difficult to contain