HUNDREDS of Nigerians have taken to social media to criticise the Spanish tomato-flinging festival, La Tomatina, which takes place on the last Wednesday of August each year, in the city of Buñol in Valencia province.
The cause for the criticism has been a recent produce epidemic in the African country that has adversely affected the growth of the tomato crop, resulting in a serious deficit of the vitamin-filled vegetable.
Widespread concern has been expressed at the waste of over 100 tonnes of tomatoes at each Tomatina festival, whereby festival goers throw copious amounts of the vegetable towards one another during the festivities. The result is a thousand-strong crowd practically swimming in tomato paste by the end of the day.
Started in 1945, the Tomatina festival was recognised as a Spanish tradition of national importance and touristic value in 2002.
Meanwhile the vegetable has become an expensive luxury in Nigeria. The price for one basket has allegedly skyrocketed to N25000, which is the equivalent of approximately €112. That is a purported increase of 3000 per cent.
This has largely been due to a severe deficit caused by an environmental factor affecting the tomato supply. Nigerian government officials have placed the blame squarely on the Tuta moth, which has destroyed nearly 80 per cent of the tomato crop in the Kaduna province, one of the main producers of the vegetable in the country.
Prior to the shortage, Nigeria was looking to achieve self sufficiency in the agricultural sector, and was aiming to stop importing tomatoes from China.
The organisers of the La Tomatina Festival have released a statement countering the concerns; they have explained that the 2016 festival will see over 125 tonnes of tomatoes used, however these tomatoes are especially grown for the event, and are not otherwise fit for human consumption.