Nigerians woke up from sleep one day only to find out that one of their favourite fruits used in preparing their daily delicacies was hardly available and totally out of reach for most families. Rumours have been flying off the handle as to the possible reasons for the sudden scarcity. In this piece, Fumnanya Agbugah of Ventures Africa tries to make sense of the current scarcity.
The Dangote Farms Tomato Processing Factory announced that it has halted operations in its $20 million tomato paste facility due to a scarcity of tomatoes, barely two months after beginning operations. This announcement comes as a surprise to many that believed Dangote was the reason for the tomatoes shortage plaguing Nigeria. The tomato plant was anticipated to help reduce wastage of the fruit in the country and to also minimise the amount of imported tomato pastes in the Nigerian market. According to Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture, Nigeria produces about 1.5 million tons of tomatoes a year, but over 900,000 tons is lost to rot.
Nigerians have been severely affected by the scarcity of tomatoes, which is a key ingredient in most of the delicacies prepared in this part of the continent. The price of the fruit has increased by 400 percent; Nigerians now pay around 200 Naira for the same quantity of tomatoes which was sold at 50 Naira few months ago. But while there have been different rumours concerning the tomato scarcity, the real reason for the scarcity is a devastating pest attack which has affected this year’s harvest. A pest known as Tuta absoluta has reportedly affected tomato farms in Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Plateau states.