Deadly moth attacks tomato crops in Nigeria

A deadly moth is destroying Nigeria's tomatoes sending prices soaring 700 per cent and forcing the local government to declare a state of emergency.

LAGOS, NIGERIA (REUTERS) - Tomatoes are often found in Nigerian cooking, and it even forms part of the country's national dish.

But a deadly moth known as Tuta Absoluta is destroying Nigeria's tomato crops, sending prices soaring 700 per cent and forcing the local government to declare a state of emergency.

"When you're buying one tomato for a 100 naira (S$0.86), you might as well resort to eating food that does not require tomatoes," said Lagos resident Taiwo Banle.

The outbreak is so bad that farmers in Nigeria's Kaduna state, the country's biggest tomato growing region, is calling it their tomato ebola. Eighty per cent of the tomato crops there have already been lost to the pestilence.

Many farmers live on less than US$2 (S$2.71) a day.

"We should have a strategic tomato reserve, we should have a strategic maize reserve to ensure staples consumed by most Nigerian households can meet at least one whole year's demand should there be any crisis," said economic analyst Bolaji Okusaga.

Nigeria is the world's 14th largest producer of tomatoes, and the largest from the sub-Saharan region.