Party Planners & Residents See Red As Tomatoes Disappear

“You like tomato I like tomahto, let’s call the whole thing off”. That is a line from a famous song by Louis Armstrong released in 1955. In Nigeria, it’s commonly referred to as ‘tomart’, especially by market women, much to the annoyance of the ‘away’ guys who would more likely say ‘tomaydoes’. Regardless, the current crises hitting tomatoes, tomahtos, and even tomarts in the country is no respecter of class, status or country of birth or education.

According to a recent report, even the richest man in all of Africa, Alhaji Dangote is shutting down his US$20million tomato processing plant as a result of the crises.

But what exactly is the Nigerian tomatoes crises?

Initially we were told that the huge waste along the supply chain between the farms in the North and the markets in the South was responsible. Shortly after, the same Dangote was accused of buying up all the yield for his multi million dollar plant and therefore forcing prices up. Most recently however, it has been reported that a plant virus Tuta absoluta has reportedly affected tomato farms in Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina  and Plateau states. The virus is locally and more appropriately called the tomato ebola, and  is responsible for ravaging over 37,000acres of tomato farms in Kano state alone.

The result is a skyrocketing of tomato prices across the country, but more devastatingly, the disaster has spelt doom for the hundreds of tomato farmers across Northern Nigeria. What could the Ministry of Agriculture have done to prevent this outbreak? What could the state governments have done? Not a lot it seems, as the brown moth responsible for this mayhem, lays eggs on tomato plants, which develop into hungry caterpillars that feed on virtually every part of the plant. Worst of all, it is now resistant to most pesticides and so continues to spread unabated.

Is this an opportunity for greenhouse farmers in Lagos to step up and fill the void using controlled conditions and controlled environments to avoid the same fate?

It is a desperately sad development for a country already reeling under severe multilayered economic hardship.

So what does all this imply for the fun loving, party going people of Lagos? Does this mean an end to party jollof rice, at least for the time being? Will snails and ‘beer meat’ be served only in pepper sauce thus putting the overall enjoyment of partygoers at risk?

It is not inconceivable that ‘swallow’ will become more popular at Lagos parties, served with egusi, vegetables, efo riro, and other accompaniments like ‘white soup’, which need little or no tomatoes. For the more delicate and sophisticated palates, there is of course the option of an  ‘oriental menu’ which at Lagos parties simply means cooking with soy sauce and little or no tomatoes.

Finally, you can always go for potatoes either as marsh, fries or jacket potatoes, served with a white sauce (again no tomatoes) and presented like something out of a DSTV food program. Where there is a will, there must be a way, even if sadly, the new way is not dripping with fried stew, Iya Modina style.


Ifeanyi Maduka


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