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New pest damage is hitting SA tomatoes, and prices are already up 11% in a week

Business Insider SA
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  • Tomato leaf miners are attacking some crops in South Africa. That, and heavy rains, are hitting tomatoes hard.
  • Tomato prices rose 11% in one week, as supply dropped by a fifth.
  • In December, the tomato industry lost nearly R100 million to rain damage.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Prices for tomatoes in South Africa have spiked, with new pest damage now hitting supplies, after previous heavy rains did the same.

Last week, prices for tomatoes shot as much as 11%, to R10.72 per kilogram, Johnny van der Merwe, managing director of agricultural information group Agrimark Trends (AMT), said in his weekly video that tracks market prices for fresh produce.

Major fresh produce markets in the countries received 21% fewer tomatoes when compared to the week prior, which caused the jump in tomato prices.

“Lower supply levels due to rainfall as well as insect pressure at the moment are currently keeping these prices on a high level,” Van der Merwe said.  

Clive Garret, marketing head for ZZ2, South Africa’s largest tomato producer, said the pests behind the damage are tomato leaf miners.

While there has been damage to the tomato crop, it is difficult to quantify what the extent of the damage has been, Garret said.

Garret added that it is difficult to ascertain whether the drop in production is due to excessive rain or pest damage.

“The insect pressure has had a negative effect on volumes which has led to increased prices. However, it appears we are over the worst and that volumes could start increasing from this week which will relieve the pressure on prices,” Garret said.

“Growers have implemented spraying programmes to reduce the effect of pests,” he said.  

According to a research and technology bulletin on the pest by KwaZulu Natal’s agriculture department, tomato leaf miners usually reduce the quality and yield of the crop and primarily damage leaves.

The tomato leaf miner can kill entire leaves and stems if the crop gets highly populated, and young plants can be destroyed. Older plants, however, can be more tolerant.

The pest attacks on tomato crops come as the tomato industry is still planting and harvesting at lower than usual levels due to the heavy rainfall this summer.

The rains cost the industry almost R100 million in December alone. 

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