Nigerians drag Spain into tomato crisis

Nigeria's food security is under threat after 6 states have been affected by a deadly pest which has ravaged 80% of the country's tomato crops.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

La Tomatina Festival in Bunol, Spain.

Who knew tomatoes could cause such outrage on Twitter?

The issue began after a state of emergency was recently declared in the northern Nigerian states where 80% of the crops were ravaged by pests.

200 tomato farmers lost at least $5.1m in the past month alone.

The crisis caused the price of tomatoes, a staple food in Nigeria, to skyrocket to $125 per box.

But, why the fuss?

Every August, the town of Bunol, Spain hosts the La Tomatina festival.

Dubbed as the world's largest food fight, the festival attracts roughly 50,000 participants who have fun by throwing tomatoes at each other.

It's estimated that around 100 tonnes of tomatoes are used during the festival.

So now you get the picture.

The topic trended on Twitter as many from around the world tweeted their anger.

Nigerians drew attention to the tomato wastage at La Tomatina at a time when their people are paying astronomical prices for the fruit.

Tuta Absoluta

Commissioner for agriculture in the Nigerian state of Kaduna, Daniel Manzo Maigari, says the pest, a moth named Tuta Absoluta, attacks the leaves of the tomato plant and leaves its larvae on the plant.

The larvae grows at an astronomical rate by feeding the entire plant killing it in the process.

"You spray it with pesticide and after about three hours, it comes back to life."

Nigerian officials say six states have been affected and the moth could attack pepper and potato plants.

The crisis poses a major threat to the country's national food security.

Nigerian authorities say they're doing everything in their power to address the issue.

In response to the Nigerian crisis, Mayor of Bunol Rafa Pérez Gil, told BBC Trending that the festival "should not be blamed" for Nigeria's crisis.

"Their problem would exist whether our festival happened or not."

He added that the tomatoes used in the festival were past their sell-by-date.

Gil said he would be open to talking about the issue with Nigerians, but was unsure how Bunol could help.

TRTWorld, TRTWorld and agencies