Even though during that particular period of the year, tomatoes are not usually in season, the unavailability was because of an attack by a pest known as Tuta Absoluta which was popularly known as Tomato Ebola.
Now tomatoes is widely available almost everywhere and is relatively cheap. The sudden boom of the commodity came as a bit of a surprise seeing how scarce it was only a few months back. From up to N35, 000 to N50, 000 for a large basket, it is now between N4000 and N6000 depending on the type of tomato and the location. A small basket is now available for about N700 to N1000.
A tomato seller and distributor in Wuse Market, Abuja, Rabiu Muhammad, said the pest was taken care of which led to the abundance of the commodity. He lamented that the country went through hard times like never before.
He noted that there are actually a number of different types of tomatoes but the most common being UTC and Tarika. According to him, Tarika is grown in Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano and Sokoto states and part of northern region, where the plague was hardest. UTC is grown around Plateau State. The type of tomato also influences the price that it is sold, Muhammad said.
However, Mai Wada, another tomato seller in Utako market, Abuja explained that there is usually a time when tomato becomes expensive.
“During the rainy season, tomatoes are usually out of season so there is a certain price hike that happens during that time of each year. In the North, when it starts raining, the one that was previously planted during the dry season, dies. So when it starts dying, tomato starts becoming scarce,” he noted.
He further attributed the reason for the scarcity like never before this year to the pest attack and caused the soaring in prices.
According to him, he sells a large basket of tomatoes for N6000 sometimes N7000 while some even go for N3500. The small basket goes for N700 to N1000 depending on the quality.
He said when it was scarce, a small basket was sold for N3, 500 to N4, 000 while the large for went for N30, 000 because it was imported from Cameroon and Niger Republic.
However, Mai Wada explained that he makes more profit now that the commodity is available than when it was scarce. “When it is cheap everyone buys it but when it was expensive, hardly anyone comes looking for it. They look for alternatives,” he said.
Another tomato seller, Usman Ashiru said it is a relief that tomatoes is available and the price has crashed. He said: “The rain and the pest that ruined the tomatoes was a terrible disaster that I hope never happens again. We all had it tough. Those who used to buy one basket resorted to buying half but now those that bought one have the comfort of buying two if they wish.”
Another dealer, Umar Iliyasu, said tomato has its time of the year and price fluctuates according to availability. He said this applies to other perishable goods too. Though he said, “both pest and the early rain this year was quite unfortunate. I sold the small basket for up to N5000 and even one piece for N100.”
He however said he was happy the price has come down. “We had a great loss of produce due to how people were not buying tomatoes anymore because of hike in price and once it stays longer it rots. Now atleast everyone buys tomatoes whether in a big quantity or little,” he said.