Consumers and retailers are worried about the nationwide tomato and pepper shortage, with diverse explanations.
Consumers criticise shortages and excessive pricing, while traders regret low patronage.
Farmers and dealers told Saturday PUNCH that the commodity’s unexpected absence from markets was due to Tuta Absoluta, often known as tomato ebola; fuel subsidy reduction and its impact on transportation; and the rainy season.
Mrs. Abiodun Farayola, a tomato trader in Mowe, Ogun State, told one of our journalists on Friday that although tomato and pepper shortages were annual, the elimination of the gas subsidy and rising fuel prices had made them more expensive.
She remarked, “Tomatoes and peppers are now expensive due to high fuel prices after fuel subsidy removal. The cost of carrying tomatoes and peppers from the North to the South includes fuel costs because the transporters use trucks.
Tomatoes are scarce and out of season almost every year. Normal one. The fuel hike has raised food prices this year.
In Lagos’ Mile 12 market, vendors said subsidy removal and the rainy season caused the commodities to disappear.
Abdullahi Musa, a market vendor who sells tomatoes and peppers in baskets, said, “It is not our fault that tomatoes are expensive now. Transportation from the North to Lagos has doubled, and the rains damage most of the produce harvested, limiting the quantity entering the state.
The rainy season has ruined our tomatoes and peppers. We cannot act till the season ends.”
Bilikis Oluyode, an Ojodu merchant, complained that the subsidy reduction was hurting her company. She stated that a bowl of tomatoes she bought at an Ibadan market for N3,500 had risen to N6,000.
She said that tomato and pepper demand had plummeted, reducing patronage.
Saturday Punch reported that a basket of tomatoes cost N40,000, up from N23,000 at the start of the year.
A paint bucket sold for N4,500 from N1,000, and a crate of tomatoes went for N24,000 from N7,000.
Scotch bonnet pepper (ata rodo) was placed in little bowls and sold for N1,000, up from N500 a few months before.
On Lagos Island, Saturday PUNCH found that a tomato paint cost N5,000 in Lekki and N8,000 in Victoria Island.
At the Jakande market, a basket of tomatoes costs N50,000 and a bag of scotch bonnet peppers costs N3,000, up from N1,000 at the start of the year.
The price increase prevented some commodity traders from restocking.
Mrs. Bumi Jadesola, a tomato seller in Magboro, Ogun State, blamed the price increase on the sickness that had plagued tomatoes for five months.
“The Tomato Ebola in the North caused tomato and pepper prices to rise early this year,” she said. Prices dropped and peaked in May. In the last five months, this disease has caused many losses; therefore, growers are avoiding the fruit.
“This week, a basket of tomatoes that used to cost between N22,000 and N24,000 sold for N78,000 and above due to Sallah, which has slowed patronage. The poor need money.
Abdullahi Wabe, a tomato farmer in Kano State, agreed with Jadesola that the infestation had caused a two-month tomato shortage.
“Tomatoes are coming back into the market,” he remarked. This scarcity has been going on for a long time. Tomato ebola destroyed 50% of farmers’ crops.
“I usually get seven trucks of tomatoes from my farm, but I could barely get three when the infestation happened, and many other farmers over here had the same experience.”
He said, “The recent subsidy removal also affected us because we were already facing an infestation, and then we had to transport our products at a ridiculously high amount to different parts of the country.
“This will definitely raise tomato prices. We cannot make profits because we must farm.”
However, Wabe remarked that the market was returning to normal compared to prior weeks and that “the infestation is being dealt with,” which would greatly enhance tomato supplies nationwide.
Mr. Aminu Dachet, a tomato and pepper supplier at Ketu Fruit Market in Ikosi, Lagos, claimed the tomato ebola illness had affected farm harvests.
The farms aren’t producing enough, he said. Tomato ebola is hurting farmers. They’ve struggled. Qua’an-Pan, a Kwande village farmer I buy from, could not even supply me. The basket-harvesting farmers had low yields. Always little tomato balls.”
Dachet noted that subsidy reductions have caused the scarcity.
“I buy directly from farms in Jos, Shendam, and Qua’an-Pan, Plateau State,” he said. We struggled to move these commodities across cities. We get our truck fuel at the same price as Nigeria. We struggled.”
Market suppliers now collaborate to bring tomatoes from the North.
Mrs. Kehinde Kosoko, a housewife, bemoaned buying five little balls of tomatoes for N1,500 on Wednesday.
She continued, “Sometimes, you go to the market and you don’t even see tomatoes to buy. We suffered. Today, I cooked with different peppers and canned tomato paste.
Mrs. Theresa Ugo, an old woman in Festac Town, Lagos, claimed she used tomato paste with blended peppers and onions for stew dishes due to a tomato shortage.
“Even if the tomato is expensive, we can still buy what we can afford, but in my area, we don’t even see tomatoes to buy.” I have to send someone to Mile 12 to buy, and they usually come back with small amounts for ridiculous amounts of money,” Ugo said.
The disease epidemic, fewer tomato producers, and high temperatures in the North caused the tomato shortage, according to Mr. Bola Oyeleke, President of the Tomatoes and Orchard Producers Association of Nigeria.
He stated that farmers were still recovering from the economic crunch when most sold their produce at giveaway prices.
Oyeleke stated, “During the rainy season, only a few farmers venture into tomato production due to financial constraints. This year’s rains came early, but the North’s heat damaged the plant. Rain brings several plant-damaging germs and fungi.
The TOPAN president blamed the lack of financing and grants for small-scale tomato farmers’ withdrawal this year.
Oyeleke stated that the tomato Ebola earlier this year led to the scarcity. He said Northern tomatoes sold between N27,000 and N32,000 on Friday and would stay so until next month.
“We need government intervention and private and individual partnership in the sector,” Oyeleke said.