Mumbai: Tomato farmers in Maharashtra are facing a crisis, as the prices of their produce have plummeted from Rs 200 per kg to Rs 3 to 5 per kg within a span of a month. The sudden drop in the prices has been attributed to the bumper production of tomatoes this year, which has created a glut in the market. The farmers, who had invested heavily in tomato cultivation, are now unable to recover their costs and are forced to either abandon or destroy their crops.
Tomatoes are one of the most widely consumed vegetables in India, and their prices often fluctuate depending on the demand and supply. A few weeks ago, consumers were complaining about the soaring prices of tomatoes, which had reached Rs 200 per kg in some retail markets. The farmers, on the other hand, were happy with the high returns they were getting from their crops. The state agriculture department had reported that the average area under tomato cultivation in Nashik district, which is one of the major tomato-producing regions in Maharashtra, had increased from 17,000 hectares to 35,000 hectares this year. The estimated production of tomatoes in Nashik district was 12.17 lakh metric tons, which was almost double the previous year’s output of 6 lakh metric tons.
However, the situation changed drastically within a month, as the market was flooded with tomatoes and the demand could not keep up with the supply. The wholesale prices of tomatoes in the three main markets of Pimpalgaon, Nasik and Lasalgaon in Nashik district fell from Rs 2,000 per crate (20 kg) to Rs 90 in the last six weeks. In the Pune market, which is another important market for tomatoes in Maharashtra, the price of tomatoes reached Rs 5 per kg. In Kolhapur, which is also a tomato-growing district, the retail prices of tomatoes dropped to Rs 2-3 per kg, which was around Rs 220 a month ago.
The farmers, who had spent up to Rs 1 lakh on planting and harvesting tomatoes, are now facing huge losses due to the low prices. Many farmers have decided to stop harvesting their crops and leave them in the fields to rot. Some farmers have even resorted to destroying their crops by throwing them on the roads or feeding them to cattle. The farmers have expressed their anger and frustration over the lack of government support and intervention to stabilize the prices and provide them relief. They have demanded that the government should procure their produce at a minimum support price or provide them compensation for their losses.
The tomato price crash has exposed the vulnerability and volatility of the agricultural sector in India, which is dependent on various factors such as weather, pests, market forces, and government policies. The farmers often bear the brunt of these uncertainties and risks, as they have no control over them. The tomato price crash has also highlighted the need for better infrastructure and storage facilities for perishable commodities like tomatoes, which can help in reducing wastage and maintaining quality. Moreover, there is a need for crop diversification and crop insurance schemes for farmers, which can help them cope with such situations and ensure their income security.