In the past three months, there were reports of tomato shortages in Kenya and across Africa. This was experienced through the high market prices where a single tomato could go for as high as Sh.20 from the normal Sh.5 or even Sh.3. Both sellers and consumers were affected. A random check in various towns of the country revealed that tomato supply had significantly reduced by more than half while the demand was still high.
Africa exported almost $800 million of tomatoes in 2015, or about 10% of the world’s total, according to the Geneva-based International Trade Centre. The continent produced $6.9 billion of the fruit in 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.
Tomato is a warm season crop, it requires warm and cool climate. The plants cannot withstand frost and high humidity. Also light intensity affects pigmentation, fruit color, fruit set. The plant is highly affected by adverse climatic conditions. It requires different climatic range for seed germination, seedling growth, flower and fruit set, and fruit quality. The heavy rains that the country had been experiences has been disclosed to be one of the reason for the low production of tomato in the market.
Tomato prices were not only high in Kenya, but also in Nigeria and South Africa. This was caused by the infestation of Tuta absoluta- a tomato pest. Since its arrival from South America via Spain in 2008, Tuta absoluta, also known as the tomato-leaf miner was said to have spread across at least 15 African countries. The moth that’s about the size of a headphone jack landed in Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, in 2015.
It is now official that such an occurrence will not be experience any time soon again since Simon Andys, the founder of Premier Seeds, has come up with a lasting and beneficial solution to it. He has come up with a tomato variety dubbed “Tomato Premier F1” that will be taking 60 days to mature (2 months) as compared to the conventional ones that normally take about 90 and 105 days before maturing. This variety will also be taking 15 days after harvest before going bad compared to conventional ones that lasts only a week.
This variety is accustomed to tough climatic conditions and has been bred to tolerate common tomato diseases. It is a variety that has been bred with the local conditions in mind. Even when it is exposed to sunlight as it usually does especially when it is being sold by roadside and open market traders, it still can go for days without going bad.
This means that if farmers can embrace this tomato variety, there will be no more shortages and not only that, but they will also be able to have a couple of harvesting seasons that will lead to high profits. The supply too will be high across the country therefore leading to lower prices.