The worsening scarcity of tomatoes and peppers in most parts of the country is generating a rising anxiety, with consumers and sellers adducing different reasons for the scarcity.
While traders lament low patronage, consumers lament the scarcity and high prices.
Farmers and traders highlighted the ravaging Tuta Absoluta, popularly known as tomato ebola; fuel subsidy removal and its effect on transportation; and the rainy season as major reasons behind the scarcity of the produce and their sudden disappearance from markets.
A tomato seller in Mowe, Ogun State, Mrs. Abiodun Farayola, said although the scarcity of tomato and pepper was relatively an annual experience, the removal of the petrol subsidy and increased fuel price had made them more expensive.
She said, “Tomato and pepper are now expensive because of the high fuel prices as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy.
“These food items are transported from the North to the South and the transporters make use of trucks which are dependent on fuel; so, they add their fuel expenses to the cost of transporting tomatoes and pepper.
“Almost every year, there is usually a period when tomatoes go out of season and become scarce. That one is normal.
“But this year, things have been different because of the fuel price hike which has led to an increase in food prices.”
Similarly, traders at the popular Mile 12 market in Lagos, explained that the subsidy removal and rainy season contributed immensely to the disappearance of the food items.
A trader, Abdullahi Musa, who sells tomatoes and pepper in baskets at the market, said, “It is not our fault that tomatoes are expensive now.
“Transport fare from the North to Lagos has doubled, more so the rains damage most of the produce harvested, so the quantity coming into the state is limited.
“The rainy season has caused us great losses as harvested tomatoes and pepper perish once they come in contact with water. There is nothing we can do until the season passes.”
Another seller at Ojodu, Lagos, Bilikis Oluyode, lamented that the subsidy removal was choking her business. She said a bowl of tomatoes which was formally sold to her at N3,500 at a local market in Ibadan had increased to N6,000.
She added that patronage had also reduced over time as customers’ demand for tomato and pepper had dropped.
It was also gathered that a basket of tomatoes was now selling for N40,000 as against N23,000 at the beginning of the year.
A crate of tomatoes sold for N24,000 as against the initial N7,000, while a paint bucket size had risen to N4,500 from N1,000.
Scotch bonnet pepper, popularly called ata rodo, were offered in small bowls, with each selling for N1,000 as against N500 a few months ago.
Meanwhile, on Lagos Island, it was gathered that a paint of tomato sold for as high as N5,000 in Lekki and N8,000 in Victoria Island.
At the Jakande market, a basket of tomatoes sold for N50,000, while a plastic of scotch bonnet pepper sold for N3,000 as against N1,000 at the beginning of the year.