Tuta absoluta, a moth species commonly known as tomato leaf miner or South American tomato moth, is the cause of the destruction. The outbreak has plunged many farmers into financial difficulty.
It has also caused a tomato shortage in the country and a spike in prices, which is having a severe impact on consumers. International news agency AFP reported that more than 200 tomato farmers in the northern region have suffered losses of more than R75 million from the disease.
Clive Garrett from ZZ2, the largest producer of tomatoes in the southern hemisphere, told Farmer’s Weekly that the moth is a serious threat to tomato producers in South Africa.
“We have not detected it on our farms yet, but there is always the possibility of the moth reaching South Africa. However, we have been aware of it for some time now and our scouts are on the lookout for it,” Garrett said.
He said that it was possible for South Africa to export tomatoes to Nigeria if the tomato shortage continued. “With current prices being achieved [in Nigeria] one could possibly look at airfreight,” he said.
Experts from the country’s University of Ibadan told the News Agency of Nigeria that the agricultural sector needed long term solutions such as the development of new tomato cultivars.
The government would have to invest in developing new varieties that were resistant to Nigeria’s growing conditions and pests such as Tuta absoluta.