Agri Business

Rising tomato prices leave consumers in a pretty pickle

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on July 03, 2020 Published on July 03, 2020

A farmer’s truck loaded with tomato in Barwani

If it was the tomato growers who bore the brunt of Covid lockdown in late March-April facing problems in harvesting and marketing their produce, it’s now the turn of consumers.

Prices of tomatoes have risen sharply to over ₹50 a kg, as against ₹20-30 a couple of weeks ago, in consuming centres as supplies have shrunk from the key producing regions — mainly Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra.

In Kolar, the largest tomato supplying region in the country now, modal prices have tripled over the past one month.

“Consumers should thank their stars that the hotels and restaurants are not operating now. Otherwise, the prices would have hit ₹100 a kg already,” said Ashok Kaushik, President of Tomato Association, Azadpur Mandi in Delhi.

Acreage down

Horticulture expert SV Hittalamani, who works with growers in Kolar and Chikkaballapur districts of Karnataka, said the prices are seen headed towards the ₹100-per-kg mark over the next few weeks.

“The area is down by half as the farmers lacked the confidence in marketing their produce considering the uncertainty over Covid and did not take up the summer planting. Also, the continuous rains over the past couple of weeks is seen hurting the growth of the crop and impacting the quality. With a bullish trend in prices, a section of farmers could revert to tomato planting in the days ahead,” he said.

Tomato, a kitchen staple, is grown throughout the year. The 100-140 day crop is grown on about 7.78 lakh hectares and the production, according to Third Advance Estimates for 2018-19, was pegged at 19.39 million tonnes, according to Agriculture Ministry.

“The upcountry demand is good. Also there are exports happening to Bangladesh, which is keeping the prices firm. If the lockdown had been fully cleared, prices would have shot up further — say up to ₹800-1,000 per 15-kg crate as against the current ₹500,” a trader in Kolar said. Prices during lockdown had crashed to as low as ₹50 per crate.

For Puttaraju, a farmer in Chikkaballapur, the risk taken to plant tomato on a little over an acre during the early phase of lockdown in April has paid off.

But remember, during the lockdown prices had crashed to as low as ₹50-70 per box, which drove away many farmers from taking proper care of their standing crop and also fresh planting as the cultivation costs work out to ₹1-1.5 lakh per acre, he adds.

Export demand

In Maharashtra, the virus attack on the crop a few months ago, still lurks in the minds of the farmers around the Nashik region.

Suresh Navale, a farmer in Akole taluk of Ahmednagar district, said farmers faced heavy losses due to virus attacks in May on the crop. Since there was an air of uncertainty around tomatoes, they shifted their cultivation to soyabean.

Trader Sunil Pundesaid prices have zoomed to ₹400 per crate (20-kg size) from ₹40-60 due to the shortage. Factors such as opening up of the local economy after lockdown and farmers’ unwillingness to plant tomatoes due to virus attack have led to supply shortage.

In Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, arrivals have almost halved. “Normally, we get around 50 trucks (each weighing 10 tonnes) daily. But nowadays, we get only 20-25 trucks a day,” said MR Kriplani, President of Azadpur Fruit and Vegetables Merchants Association.

Fuel prices

Ashok Kaushik said there is a widespread damage to tomato crops in UP, Haryana and Rajasthan. “Apart from farmers destroying their own crop, untimely rains too played spoilsport. Currently, tomatoes are coming from Himachal as well as from south India. Even in these markets, the prices are hovering around ₹40 a kg. With diesel prices going up, it is not possible to get the produce at a cheaper rate than this.”

Moreover, the Delhi government’s insistence on trucks that are going to get produce from elsewhere taking a token also marred the supplies. “Trucks had to wait for 5-6 hours for getting the token. This dissuaded many trucks from operating leading to short supply of tomatoes in the market,” Kaushik added.

With inputs from TV Jayan in New Delhi and Rahul Wadke in Mumbai

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 03, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor