State of emergency declared after moths eat 80 per cent of tomato crops in Nigerian state

Women sells tomatoes at a market in Obalende, Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

A state government in Nigeria has declared a state of emergency after 80 per cent of its tomato crops was destroyed by moths in under a month.

The moths are commonly called Tomato Leaf Miners or Tuta Absoluta.

“In three local government areas, about 200 farmers have lost one billion naira worth of their tomatoes. So you can imagine the magnitude of the loss,” Kadua State Govenor Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai said at a press conference on Monday.

One billion naira is roughly $6.5 million Canadian.

El-Rufai said officials have been sent to Kenya to learn how to deal with the pest.

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The loss of the crop is a devastating blow, because tomatoes are a staple food in the country.

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The price of the plant has risen dramatically: a basket of tomatoes, which had been US$1.20 three months ago is now more than US$40, the BBC reports.

Kaduna state’s agricultural commissioner, Manzo Daniel, puts the price even higher.

A basket that contains around 100 tomatoes is going for 42,000 naira (US$212), he told AFP.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency calls the moth “highly destructive.”

It originated in South America, but has migrated to Africa and Europe, including Greece.

A farmer shows tomatoes damaged by the insect Tuta absoluta, in Herakleion on the island of Crete south of mainland Greece on April 25, 2010. Costas Metaxakis/AFP/Getty Images

Nigerians have taken their struggle online, where they are mocking Spain’s La Tomatina, a festival that sees over 20,000 people join in a tomato fight.

“They are throwing gold!” one post reads.

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