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Africa’s Big Tomato Pickle: Miner Grubs Are Wiping Them Out

  • Tuta absoluta is ravaging Africa’s tomatoes, causing shortages
  • Fungus that kills the insect in pupal stage seen as solution
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Source: Getty Images
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Yusuf Ibrahim, a tomato farmer in Kano, Nigeria, has lost almost 90 percent of his crop this year to Tuta absoluta. That prices for the fruit are 15 times higher than before the outbreak of the pest is little consolation; he can’t afford to plant the corn and rice he normally does after harvesting tomatoes.

Since arriving from South America via Spain in 2008, Tuta absoluta, also known as the tomato-leaf miner, has 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. The main tomato-producing region’s government declared a state of emergency, and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, had to halt output at a $20 million processing plant due to lack of supply.