A report by New Telegragh indicates that the current scarcity of tomatoes in Nigeria has fueled smuggling of the crop from neighbouring countries like Ghana and Cameroon through land borders.
The alarm was raised by the chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos state chapter, Otunba Femi Oke, who stated that the shortage of the staple food had increased smuggling of the product into Nigeria.
Tomatoes prices has gone up to over 100%
He revealed that despite tomatoes being in the list of 41 items prohibited by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for importation, many Nigerians are now venturing into importation of the crop more of it ever before.
He said: ”Neighbouring West African countries like Ghana and Cameroon are actually benefiting from this right now.A whole lot of farmers are out of business.
”In the meantime, people are coming up with ways of cooking without tomatoes because tomatoes are a staple here. I went to the farm and I saw the devastation. It was like the biblical plague of the locusts that devastated Egypt.
”There was no green left. Moreover, the moths come like thieves in the night; you don’t even know until morning what they’ve done.”
Meanwhile, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) have redoubled their efforts to curb the influx of tomato paste into the country.
NAFDAC had already given hint that it might ban the importation of tomato paste from China following a startling revelation from a research carried out by one of its subsidiary unit – Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN).
FSAN research revealed that out of 316 packs of tomato pastes purchased in Lagos and tested, 218 of them had less than the minimum requirement (28 per cent) of tomato in them.
The minimum requirement specified by the Codex Alimentarius Standards and Nigerian Industrial Standards is that tomato pastes should have at least 28 per cent tomato content.
Investigations revealed that there are warehouses in Seme and Cotonou in neighbouring Benin Republic packed with imported tomato paste which are ready to serve the Nigerian market at the expense of indigenous brands.
Tuta absoluta, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’, a pest responsible for massive destruction of tomato, has invaded some states in Nigeria.
The federal government made this announcement on Tuesday, May 24, while also disclosing that Nigeria spent about N80bn ($400m) annually on importation of tomato paste, with many of the imported products appearing to be counterfeit.