Canadian grower to assist Nigeria with ‘tomato Ebola’ crisis

Nigeria’s oil-heavy economy has been roiled lately – as it faces the same price pressures as other petroleum-producing nations, its oil infrastructure has been cut down by attacks from militant groups. Some business leaders and politicians have suggestedturning to agriculture to steer Africa’s biggest economy back on track. But there are problems there for farming, too.

Tomatoes are a staple in Nigerian diets, but the country’s crops have been devastated by the arrival of Tuta absoluta, a species of South American moth whose larvae feed on tomato plants. In some regions of the country, it’s been reported that more than 90 per cent of the latest tomato crop has been ruined, and the result is ratcheting up prices for consumers.

Thomas Canning (Maidstone) Ltd., which produces Thomas’ Utopia Brand canned tomatoes in Ontario’s tomato-rich Essex County, saw potential in Nigeria’s tomato sector half a decade ago, and estimates the country is now responsible for 10 to 15 per cent of its business. Not only does the company import their canned-tomato products – it also conducts food-safety courses on the ground there. And with the rise of the crop-killing moth – informally dubbed “tomato Ebola” – the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service has begun discussions with Thomas Canning to find solutions to reduce harm from the pest.