Nigeria Faces Inflation Risks as Tomato Shortage Drives Price Surge

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Soaring tomato prices in Nigeria are creating new challenges for authorities already struggling with record-high food inflation, which has triggered protests and looting.

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Market traders report that the price of tomatoes, a staple ingredient in many Nigerian dishes, has surged due to severe shortages. Audu Isa, a vegetable vendor in Abuja, stated that the price of a small basket of tomatoes has skyrocketed from 7,000 naira ($9) in April to 25,000 naira ($32) in June, marking the worst price increase in a decade.

The situation is even more dire in Jos, Plateau State, where a large basket of tomatoes can cost up to 75,000 naira ($96), nearly 20 times more than three months ago. Farmer Joshua Lalong attributed the crisis to the soaring cost of fuel, which has made dry season farming unaffordable. “Watering machines need fuel, and many of us are losing money because of fuel prices,” he said. “There is no incentive to cultivate tomatoes or other produce.”

The fuel price hike is partly due to President Bola Tinubu’s removal of a popular but costly fuel subsidy and the easing of foreign-exchange controls shortly after taking office in May 2023. Although the subsidy was later reintroduced, the initial surge in fuel prices had already taken a toll.

Food prices are particularly sensitive in Nigeria, where more than 50% of an average household’s budget is spent on food. The rising cost of living has sparked unrest, with trucks hauling food supplies being hijacked on rural highways and soldiers guarding grain warehouses in major cities against desperate looters.

In response to the food crisis, the government is considering suspending import duties on essential items, including some food staples and drugs, for six months to curb inflation.

Tomatoes are a significant part of Nigerian cuisine, essential for dishes like stews and jollof rice, and a major agricultural commodity. Researchers at Cornell University estimate that over 200,000 smallholders grow tomatoes, making Nigeria the second-largest producer in Africa and the 12th globally.

Agriculture Minister Mohammad Abubakar blames the rising prices on a severe infestation known as Tomato Ebola or Tomato Leaf Miner, caused by a moth-like insect. The government has dispatched teams to affected areas to combat the infestation and help farmers recover their crops quickly.

Farmers also point to dry weather as a contributing factor. Sani Danladi Yadakwari, chairman of a growers association in Kano, Nigeria’s largest tomato-producing state, explained that due to the hot weather, farmers avoid planting tomatoes in February or March for fear of losses. “By May, all the tomatoes produced in Nigeria have finished. We are now waiting for the rain to start falling to plant the new tomato,” he said.

The combined effects of these challenges pose significant risks to Nigeria’s inflation and economic stability, underscoring the urgent need for effective government intervention and support for the agricultural sector.

Godwin Okafor, The Naija247news
Godwin Okafor, The Naija247newshttps://naija247news.com
Godwin Okafor is a veteran Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur, and the visionary Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. With an extensive career spanning over 16 years in financial journalism, Godwin possesses a wealth of experience that seamlessly bridges both traditional and digital media landscapes. His journey in journalism commenced at Business Day, Nigeria, where he laid the foundation for his prolific career. In 2010, Godwin took a bold step by founding Naija247news Media, a platform that has since become a prominent player in delivering timely and accurate news. Educationally, Godwin Okafor holds a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the prestigious Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. His commitment to continuous learning led him to the Lagos Business School, where he further honed his skills. Additionally, he is recognized as a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania, having successfully completed the Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists. Throughout his illustrious career, Godwin has earned acclaim by winning numerous journalism awards, a testament to his dedication to excellence in reporting. Beyond his role as a Financial Journalist, Godwin Okafor wears the hat of the Chairman at Emmerich Resources Limited, the publishing entity behind Naija247news. His visionary leadership has played a pivotal role in shaping the media landscape and establishing Naija247news as a trusted source of information. Godwin Okafor's multifaceted expertise, commitment to journalistic integrity, and leadership in the realm of business journalism underscore his influential presence in both the media and entrepreneurial spheres.

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