Tomato scarcity grips Nigeria, pushing prices to record highs 

Nigeria is currently facing a severe scarcity of tomatoes, leading to soaring prices and causing distress among farmers, traders, and consumers across the country. 

Multiple factors, including the devastating Tuta Absoluta infestation, fuel subsidy removal, and the onset of the rainy season, have contributed to the critical shortage of this essential food item. 

Farmers and traders, in conversations with Nairametrics, highlighted the detrimental effects of Tuta Absoluta, commonly known as tomato ebola, on the tomato harvest. This destructive pest has wreaked havoc on farms, significantly reducing the yield and quality of tomatoes. 

The situation has been exacerbated by the challenges brought on by the removal of fuel subsidies, which has led to increased transportation costs for farmers and traders, ultimately driving up prices. 

Shola Adegbesan, a tomato seller in Iyana Iba Market, Ojo LGA of Lagos, expressed concerns, stating that while tomato scarcity is a typical seasonal occurrence, this year’s situation has been particularly challenging due to the rising cost of fuel. 

She said the transportation of tomatoes and peppers from the North to the South heavily relies on trucks, which are dependent on fuel. 

With the removal of fuel subsidies, transporters have passed their increased fuel expenses onto the cost of transporting these perishable goods. Traders at Agbara Market echoed similar sentiments, citing the subsidy removal and the rainy season as major contributors to the scarcity. 

The heavy rains have damaged a significant portion of the tomato harvest, leading to limited supply in the market. The combination of factors has resulted in surging prices, leaving consumers struggling to afford this essential ingredient. 

The price surge has been drastic, with a basket of tomatoes now commanding a price of N40,000, compared to N23,000 at the beginning of the year, according to traders.

Additionally, the cost of a crate of tomatoes has skyrocketed from N7,000 to N24,000, and even smaller quantities, such as a paint bucket size, have seen sharp increases from N1,000 to N4,500. 

Scotch bonnet pepper, a popular accompaniment to Nigerian cuisine, has not been spared, with prices rising from N500 to N1,000 per small bowl. 

Certain areas, such as Lagos Island, have been hit particularly hard by the tomato scarcity. In Lekki, a pint of tomatoes is being sold for as high as N5,000, while in Victoria Island, prices have reached a staggering N8,000, according to sources who spoke with Nairametrics. 

The situation is no different at the Ajah market, where a basket of tomatoes now carries a price tag of N50,000, and a plastic Scotch bonnet pepper is being sold for N3,000, triple the price from earlier this year. 

Traders have struggled to restock due to the sharp increase in prices, while consumers are left with limited options and are resorting to alternatives such as canned tomato paste and other types of peppers to meet their cooking needs. 

The Tomato and Orchard Producers Association of Nigeria (TOPAN) has acknowledged the scarcity and attributed it to the outbreak of tomato ebola, fewer farmers engaged in tomato cultivation, and adverse weather conditions, including high temperatures. 

TOPAN President, Mr. Bola Oyeleke, has highlighted the financial constraints faced by farmers and their limited access to loans and grants, which have further hampered production. 

As the tomato scarcity persists, stakeholders, including government agencies and relevant organizations, are urged to collaborate and develop strategies to address the challenges faced by tomato farmers. 

This crisis highlights the need for long-term solutions, such as improved pest control measures, increased financial support for farmers, and investments in agricultural infrastructure, to ensure a steady supply of tomatoes and stabilize prices in the future.