The high demand and low supply for tomatoes especially at the Kenyan Coast where a single tomato is now selling for Sh10-15, almost four times the normal price has created a ripe market for tomato farmers in Kenya who have previously recorded huge losses due to lack of a ready market.
According to Peter Nyagah, the chairperson of Kongowea Market, the largest open air market in Mombasa, most retailers are sourcing their tomatoes from Tanzania at between Sh7600-8500 per 64kg and 80kg boxes respectively. A kilo of grade one tomatoes in the region normally trade for Sh50-60 but currently the same is trading for Sh120-130.
In other parts of Mombasa, families are forced to strike tomatoes out of their food menus due to the scarcity with those residing closer to the city parting with a whopping Sh15 per tomato fruit as confirmed by a Savoy Estate resident Gilbert Mundia.
The Nafis Commodity and Inputs Exchange (NACIE) indicates similar situation in other parts of the country. In Nairobi for instance, 64kg box of the commodity in wholesale markets is now going for an average of $68 which is approximately Sh6800, up from Sh4500 early in the year. At Wakulima and Muthurwa markets on the outskirts of the city centre, traders complained of not only low supply but also poor quality of tomatoes, majority of them are affected by diseases.
Hot climatic condition experienced in the country since the beginning of the year is blamed for the tomato scarcity in the Kenyan market with experts predicting even a more severe shortage in the next four months.
According to Wilson Bett, a retired agronomist, diseases like early blight spreads easily in hot climates while pests like aphids reproduce more during dry season. He explained that hostile weather, pests and diseases will affect more tomatoes in the open field, hence crushing the production further.
However, various seed companies have developed drought resistant hybrid varieties like the Beef-master which is FNASt resistant and matures in 80 days. Others include Early Girl and Celebrity varieties which mature in 50-52 and 60-70 days respectively. The Beef-master variety has however a higher production rate.