The Federal Government says the pest, “Tuta Absoluta”, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’, responsible for the massive destruction of tomato in farmlands, has invaded six states in Nigeria.
The staes are Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos.
According to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh, the highly reproductive nature of the tomato pest coupled with the favourable environment and lack of management knowledge for containment resulted in its spread.
He also said the report that tomato processing factories had mopped-up tomato fruits in Nigeria was unfounded and untrue.
He disclosed that nigeria spent about N80 billion annually importing tomato paste, and that many of the imported products were substandard.
According to Ogbe, the pest can also attack even pepper and Irish potato, adding "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 said:”We have two processing plants for tomato paste in Nigeria, Erisco and Dangote, and their capacities are huge. We welcome their arrival because our annual import bill of tomato past is about $400m and it is a good sign that we can now produce here and make money for our farmers.”
He added that experts had already offered other varieties of tomato that grow well in the western part of the country as alternatives to the existing genre.