The stories of tomato farmers striking gold with rising prices are making headlines. Still, farmers say that the seasonal price rise only helps them to compensate for the losses in earlier seasons and doesn’t add to their average monthly income, which is as low as about ₹5,000 in some States.  

Ishwar Gayakar (36) and his wife Sonali from Junnar taluka earned ₹2.8 crore by selling tomatoes and target to earn ₹3.5 crore by selling about 4,000 crates of tomatoes in the next few days. Along with Gayakars, other tomato farmers in the Pune district have earned handsome incomes as prices skyrocketed in the last few weeks.

While Iswar and his family made headlines, he has not earned consistent profit in tomato cultivation. He has incurred heavy losses in the past, and his income this year would compensate for the previous losses.

Farmers have sold tomatoes at the price of 50 paise in the past, and many have dumped their produce as they were not even able to recover production and transportation costs.

The seasonal price rise in tomatoes or any other produce helps farmers to compensate for the losses incurred in the past, and it is not the profit, says Keshav Suryavanshi of Shetkari Sanghatana, the organisation that launched an agitation in Nashik against the State government’s intervention to bring down tomato prices in the market. According to farmers’ organizations, a sudden price hike in the market has no impact on the average annual income of farmers.

How much do farmers earn?          

Farmers’ income is estimated through the survey conducted by the NSSO. As per the last “Situation Assessment Survey” conducted in 2012–13, monthly agricultural household income was estimated at ₹6,426, which increased to ₹10,218 as per the survey conducted in 2018–19. The average income of farmers in many States like Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal may be calculated at about ₹5,590 per month.

“More than farmers, it is traders and middlemen who reap benefits during the seasonal price rise. If the average rate of tomatoes is ₹150 or ₹180 per kg in the market, farmers get ₹40 per kg,” says Samadhan Borate, a young farmer who has been bargaining hard with Pune APMC traders to get better prices for his tomatoes.


Most agricultural households farm on small, fragmented lands (see graphics). Frequent crop failures due to droughts and unseasonal rains, a rise in the number of attacks by pests and diseases on crops, government policies that paralyse farmers, and failure to recover production costs in the markets are among the reasons that put farmers under heavy debt, pushing them to suicide, say experts. Not surprisingly, more than 50 per cent of the agricultural households in India are reeling under the debt, according to government data.