Agri Business

Virus attack: Maharashtra tomato farmers in a fix over next planting

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on May 18, 2020 Published on May 18, 2020

Tomato farmers in Maharashtra are in a dilemma as to whether replant or to keep their land fallow as an unknown type of virus has affected their crop with production losses reaching almost two-third of the yield in certain areas.

The farmers are also facing trouble in the market as prices of quality tomatoes, too, have crashed owing to a false news by a TV channel, which had drawn similarities between the virus afflicting the tomato and coronavirus.

Farmers in tomato-growing belt of Ahmednagar and Pune have especially suffered large crop losses by a virus, which the State Government has not been able to identify. Samples of the affected tomatoes have been sent to the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bengaluru, for further analysis.

Ajit Navale, General Secretary (Maharashtra) of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), told BusinessLine that the damage to the crop has been extensive but there is no clarity from the government as to what should be done further. Since tomato is cultivated round the year the farmers are in two minds about the next planting season. They fear that the virus, which has affected the current crop, could also damage the next.

In some areas, the farmers have used seeds from multiple suppliers but the virus attack has been extensive, which makes them believe that the planted seeds may not be faulty but there could be other environmental factors, he said.

Pasha Patel, farm leader and former Chairman of Maharashtra Agriculture Price Commission, told BusinessLine due to wrong false news floating in the market, farmers have found it difficult to sell tomatoes in the Latur market. “ One farmer was selling tomatoes as if it was some kind of a banned substance,” he said.

Framer Vishnu Harak from Nashik district said that until last week a 20 kg crate of tomatoes was fetching about ₹200 but today the market has fallen to ₹70.

The issue of false news was also taken up by former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan. In a tweet, he said that the State Govt must take legal action against the channel and also Centre must issue an SOP & a code for reportage. Any CORONA related sensitive news must be put out only with prior approval from ICMR or Central Govt.

At the time of going to press, both Agriculture Secretary and Minister of Maharashtra were not available for comment.

Published on May 18, 2020

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