There is anxiety in markets across the country as Nigerians have decried the worsening scarcity of tomatoes and peppers, with consumers and sellers adducing different reasons for the scarcity.
While traders lament low patronage, consumers lament the scarcity and high prices.
Farmers and traders who spoke with PUNCH highlighted the ravaging Tuta Absoluta, popularly known as tomato ebola; fuel subsidy removal and its effect on transportation; and the rainy season as major reasons behind the scarcity of the commodity and its sudden disappearance from markets.
A tomato seller in Mowe, Ogun State, Mrs Abiodun Farayola, who spoke on Friday, said although the scarcity of tomato and pepper was relatively an annual experience, the removal of the petrol subsidy and increased fuel price had made them more expensive.
Similarly, traders in the popular Mile 12 market in Lagos State, explained that the subsidy removal and rainy season contributed immensely to the disappearance of the commodities.
A trader, Abdullahi Musa, who sells tomatoes and pepper in baskets in the market, said, “It is not our fault that tomatoes are expensive now. Transportation from the North to Lagos has doubled, more so the rains damage most of the produce harvested, so the quantity coming into the state is limited.
“The rainy season has caused us great losses as harvested tomatoes and pepper perish once they come in contact with water. There is nothing we can do until the season passes.”
It was gathered that a basket of tomatoes was now selling for N40,000 as against N23,000 at the beginning of the year.
A crate of tomatoes sold for N24,000 as against the initial N7,000, while a paint bucket size had risen to N4,500 from N1,000.
Scotch bonnet pepper, popularly called ata rodo, were shaded in small bowls, each was sold for N1,000 as against N500 a few months ago.
Another tomato seller blamed the price hike on the disease that had ravaged tomatoes in the past five months.
She stated, “The prices of tomatoes and pepper initially increased early this year due to the Tomato Ebola that affected the produce in the North. After a while, the prices came down and peaked again in May. This disease has led to many losses in the last five months and many farmers are avoiding investing in the fruit.
“This week, a basket of tomatoes that used to be between N22,000 and N24,000 sold for N78,000 and above because of the Sallah celebration and it has made patronage slower than it used to be. People are struggling, where is the money?”
Corroborating Jadesola, a tomato farmer in Kano State, Abdullahi Wabe, stated that the infestation had led to the scarcity of tomatoes in the last two months.