The tomato pest, Tuta Absoluta, which has been ravaging tomato farms in many states since last year has resurfaced in Gombe State, resulting in huge losses to the farmers.
The affected areas are Boltungo and Zambuk in Yamaltu Deba and Garin Faruku in Akko local government areas respectively.
Daily Trust’s correspondent, who visited some of the affected farms reports that the pest had destroyed most of the farms, resulting in the scarcity of fresh tomato.
It was gathered that the destruction affected irrigation farmers mostly as the wet season is yet to commence in the area.
Malam Iliya Abubakar, a 65-year-old tomato farmer in Boltungo village, said the pest began to appear when the tomato was about to be ready for harvest.
He said the disease had destroyed his tomato farm of about six hecters he had made heavy investment.
“This is the worst crisis in over 15 years. I am one of the biggest farmers of tomatoes in this village, but the disease has caused a lot of damage to my farm of over six hectares,” he said.
He said the pest seems to be resistance to all pesticides and chemicals known to them.
It was gathered that the farmers get their seedlings from the previous year’s harvest, which also suffered the same fate.
According to Malam Abubakar, when the harvest was good, they used to get over 200 baskets of tomatoes from the farm in a month.
He said many farmers in the affected areas were being forced out of the tomato business.
“But this year, with the coming of this disease, in the whole months, I didn’t get up to 30 baskets and as I am talking to you now, as you can see, the tomato plant has already dried up.
“I spent over N600,000 in the farm but I couldn’t get even N20, 000. For now, I am considering taking a break from the tomato farming as the loss is now becoming unbearable, because we experienced the same problem last year and there was no any assistance from the government,” he lamented.
Another farmer, Dahiru Iliya, 28, owns a farm at Garin Faruku in Akko LGA.
He said even though his farm was relatively small, he used to get at least seven baskets of tomato in a day.
But after spending lots of money this year, Iliya told this reporter that in over two weeks, he only gets 10 baskets of tomatoes from the farm that used to fetch him over 50 baskets.
“The pest attacks the tomato leaves, which stunted its growth and later affected yield. This is the second year we are experiencing this problem,” he said.
Most of the farmers told our correspondent that they don’t have enough resources to buy good pesticide, fertilizer and hand pumps to effectively water the farms.
“Despite promises from the government, we are yet to access the loan said to be reserved for dry season farmers. They compile our lists and made us open accounts with banks, but so far, nothing has come out of it,” one of the farmers who doesn’t want his name in print, said.
A market survey conducted by this reporter in Kwadon, one of the major tomatoes markets in the state, shows that a basket of tomato previously sold N1,500 now cost as high as N10, 000 due to the scarcity.
Tomato is now brought from Jos, Plateau State, according to one of the traders, adding that in the whole of Gombe State, there is no fresh tomato.
“we now source the product from Jos and if you add the cost of transporting it to Gombe, you will understand why the price is high,” he said.
The Director Extension Services at the Gombe State Agricultural Development Programme (GSADP), Mr Sunday Lah, said the pest started ravaging the farms since last year.
He said the GSADP had since written a memo to the state government to get fund to purchase pesticides and other chemicals to spray the non-affected farms.
Mr Lah said the GSADP was trying to procure seeds from reputable institutions for farmers in the state.
“We have also compiled the lists of the tomatoes farmers in the affected area to train them on the handling of the pesticide, they are expected to do a step down training for other farmers in their respective villages to avoid future occurrence,” he said.