Tomato quality may remain poor till October harvest

Written by Nanda Kasabe | Pune | Updated: Aug 8 2014, 08:17am hrs
People may have to put up with poor quality tomato till October when the fresh harvest arrives. The existing crop of tomato has developed cracks owing to black spot disease and rains. As a result, these tomatoes cannot be transported to distant locations, thereby, forcing farmers to dispose of the crop in nearby markets, Shriram Gadhave, president of All-India Vegetable Growers Association (AIVGA), said.

Tomato prices have, therefore, eased by R10 a kg in wholesale markets where it was being sold at around R30 a kg. A month ago, the wholesale price of tomato had touched an all-time high of R65 per kg. The humble green chilli had touched a high of R120 a kg due to short supply.

Gadhave said the current situation with tomato will continue for next three to four months till October and the quality may remain an issue. Fresh plantation has begun in Maharashtra in the last fortnight with 10,000 hectares in Narayangaon near Pune and another 40,000 hectares in Pimpalgaon near Nashik, Satara and Sangli. Total plantation in Maharashtra may go up to 3 lakh hectares, less than last year mainly due to the rains, he said. While there may not be a bumper crop, prices may ease by October, he said.

Price is likely to remain firm at current levels as production of tomato in Narayangaon and Junnar region has fallen by more than 50%, he said. Because of the black spot disease that has damaged the crop, as against 1,500 crates (R20 kg per crate) per hectare, the yield this year has touched some 300 crates. Farmers are facing losses and have reduced planting this season, he said. Tomato is planted on 13,000 hectares in the Narayangaon area. This year, farmers have reduced the planting to some 6,000 hectares. Last year, the total production touched some 55,000 tonne and this year it is likely to reduce to 35,000 tonnes.

Tomato arrival at Pimpalgaon in Nashik district, one of the major tomato markets in Maharashtra, has dropped to almost 100-200 crates per day with prices averaging R300 to R550 per crate. In a normal season, arrivals in the market are to the tune of around 10,000 to 20,000 crates per day with a total arrival touching almost 60,000-70,000 crates in a month. Pimpalgaon market committee officials said the rains were delayed because of which quality is not so good. New plantations have just begun and the situation may ease in the coming months. There has been a shortage of seeds as well in nurseries because the farmers had to sow the crop twice, officials said.

Chillies are also sold at high rates due to the rain factor. The chilli-producing Buldhana area of Maharashtra saw a dry spell in June, which hit the local market. The city's supply now comes from Haveri in Karnataka, where heavy rainfall prevented the farmers from harvesting the crop in bulk. The chilli crop largely comes from Chandrapur and Amravati in the Vidharba area, and Vasai, Virar, Bhoisar, Dahanu in the Palghar area. In the rainy season, the farmers focus on paddy instead of chilli and, hence, they are procured from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and Havel in Karnataka. Though chilli production is not directly linked to the monsoon, the price is expected to come down once the Jalgaon and Nashik crop is harvested.