KADUNA , Nigeria, May 24 (UPI) -- An insect blight ruining 80 percent of Nigeria's tomato crop forced a state governor to declare a state of emergency.
Tomatoes, which are a staple in Nigerian diets and are primarily grown in northern Kaduna state, cost $1.20 per basket three months ago. They now are over $40 per basket. An exotic and hard-to-kill pest, Tuta Absoluta or the Tomato Leaf Miner, has ravaged the crop.
Daniel Manzo Maigar, Agriculture Commission spokesman for Gov. Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai, said Monday that El-Rufai "has declared a state of emergency on tomatoes in the state...In the past one month, 12 local government areas of the state that produce tomatoes have lost 80 percent of its tomato harvest. In three local government areas, about 200 farmers have lost 1 billion naira ($5.1 million) worth of their tomatoes."
He noted a tomato paste manufacturer in Kano state, Dangote, suspended production earlier in May because of the lack of tomatoes.
Agriculture officials were sent to Kenya to learn about a way to develop a temporary solution, Maigar said.
"Kenya has a good advantage on this issue over us," he said. "We understand that they use a plant extract to take care of this problem. But we do not have that knowledge yet. We expect them to return very soon with a short and medium term solution."
As word spread of the decimated crop, the BBC reported, it has become a trending topic on the Internet, with some users supplying photos of tomato festivals in Europe in which celebrants bathe in, and throw, tomatoes.