Tomato prices may not come down any time soon following an attack by the deadly leaf miner which affects productivity and quality of the crop.
The dangerous pest, Tuta Absoluta, allegedly originated from South America and is believed to have come into Kenya from Ethiopia.
Currently, a single tomato is selling at Sh10 at the Nakuru wholesale market, the price of four tomatoes a few months ago.
Mary Akoth, a buyer at the market, says that she rarely uses tomatoes in her meals after the prices more than doubled following the pest attack.
“I only use onions then add spices in most of my meals. When I use tomatoes, I can’t use more than one in my food,” she said.
John Wanderi, a trader at the market, says a crate of tomatoes was costing between Sh2,500 and Sh3,000 a few months ago but now they are buying the same at Sh6,500.
Wanderi said, “We are getting our tomatoes from Loitotok and Loita. The cost of transporting the tomatoes is increasing the tomato prices, making it expensive for most buyers.”
Researchers at Egerton University say the pest is a huge threat to the tomato sector, which is Kenya’s fourth horticultural crop, contributing Sh14 billion to the country’s economy annually.
Lillian Jeptanui, a researcher, said that Nakuru is the country’s largest tomato producer and is one of the counties most affected by the pest.
Jeptanui said other counties affected are Isiolo, Meru, Embu, Garissa, Wajir and Marsabit. She said that the pest destroys the crop at the flowering stage.
“The country has received reports of huge losses since last year due to the pest attack. More than 70,000 farmers who earn a living from tomato farming have incurred huge losses,” said Jeptanui.
Jeptanui added: “The pest is quickly spreading to almost all the counties because it is a migratory pest. There are fears that it might spread to other tomato-growing areas in South Rift Valley.”
The researchers said that the migratory pest wipes up to 100 percent of the crop in days and it thrives on other host plants like potato, night shade among others.