Why Spain's Infamous Tomato Food Fight Festival Is Making Nigerians Angry

Outrage over the wanton waste of La Tomatina is brewing online, as Nigerians are experiencing a tomato emergency thanks to what’s been called “tomato ebola.”

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29 May 2016, 3:00pm

Nothing gets the blood flowing like a good old food fight, and every August the streets of the small Spanish town of Buñol run red with the fragrant tomato gore of some 100 tons of tomatoes. But further south, outrage over the wanton waste is brewing online, as Nigerians are experiencing a tomato emergency thanks to what's been called "tomato ebola."

Tomatoes are a staple in Nigeria, and a moth called the Tuta Absoluta has been tearing through tomato crops, according to the BBC. The government has declared a state of emergency in the tomato-producing state of Kaduna, and tomato farmers in Nigeria's north have lost as much as 80 percent of their crops. Prices for a small basket of tomatoes have skyrocketed from $1.20 to over $40.

Amidst the tomato massacre in Nigeria, La Tomatina, as the famed tomato festival in Buñol is called, is making people mad, particularly on social media. One Nigerian newspaper, Newsroom, ran a series of photos of some of the tens of thousands of attendees of La Tomatina with the headline, "La Tomatina: 17 tomato photos that'll make Nigerians cry, 'Where is our God?'" Another, News 24 Nigeria, ran a similar gallery titled "Five tomato photos that will make Nigerians cry."

The mayor of Buñol, which has a population of around 10,000, told the BBC that he doesn't think his town's food fight is to blame for the problems in Nigeria and that Buñol is "open to (see) how we can help, but the problem is very big and we are very small." He also pointed out that the tomatoes used in La Tomatina are on the verge of rotting.

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But nevertheless, the visual of people literally snorkeling through tomato slop can't make Nigerians feel any better, and both Nigerians and the mayor of Buñol have acknowledged that food waste is a serious problem. "If you look at the garbage bins in Spain, there is more waste thrown away every day than tomatoes used at La Tomatina," the mayor, Rafa Pérez Gil, told BBC.

It's fitting though, that a massive food fight has led to an even bigger food fight. As visitors to La Tomatina surely know, once the first tomato is thrown, the tomatoes start flying from all directions.