Just a couple of months ago, tomato prices had soared to Rs 40-50 per kg in wholesale markets and Rs 70-80 per kg in retail markets in almost all parts of the country. Prices have now dropped down to Rs 7-10 per kg in wholesale markets on huge supplies entering the markets almost the same time, top industry people said.Top officials of the Vegetable Growers Association of India (VGAI) say that prices are likely to drop further below the Rs 10 per kg levels for the next few months on ample supplies. The area under tomato has almost gone up three to four times since the previous season but the productivity has reduced by almost 50%, Shriram Gadhave, president, VGAI said.
Vegetables have started arriving in markets at the same time resulting in falling prices, he said. On Wednesday, more than 2 lakh crates of tomatoes arrived in Pimpalgaon Baswant, one of the major tomato growing belts in Maharashtra. Modal prices touched Rs 151 per crate (1 crate equals 20kg) with the minimum prices at Rs 41 per crate and maximum prices at Rs 261 per crate. The situation was similar on Tuesday. Officials at the Pimpalgaon Baswant Agriculture Produce Market Committee said that with the season in full swing, tomato arrivals were also booming. Gadhave pointed out that with vegetables and tomatoes arriving in other states as well, there is no demand for tomatoes from other states and therefore the supplies are aplenty in the state.
Normally traders from the North used to visit the Narayangaon auction held by farmers on the Pune-Nashik highway. But now only traders from Mumbai and Pune come to this market for the purchase of tomato. Around 15,000-20,000 crates are being sold in this auction on a daily basis.
Nashik is the main supplier of tomatoes to most parts of the country. Pimpalgaon usually supplies tomatoes to other markets like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Haryana. It also exports tomatoes to countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. Tomatoes are cultivated by farmers in Narayangaon near Pune, Nashik, Beed and Pusegaon, among other areas.
In Narayangaon alone, around 18,000 acre usually comes under tomato cultivation resulting in a production of some 1,400 tonne a day. About 40,000 hectare come under tomato plantation in Pimpalgaon. The season at Pimpalgaon will continue till November-December. Around 1.25 lakh hectare comes under tomato cultivation in Nashik district every year. Mumbai receives its quota of tomato from cultivated areas in Karnataka, as well as Satara, Sangli and Narayangao. This season, the area has gone up almost three times on good rains from around 2 lakh hectares in the state to 5-6 lakh hectares. Productivity, however, has declined to 12-15 tonnes per hectare from 20-25 tonnes per hectare because of the various reasons including the rain pattern, he said.
Since the area has increased, the production has been compensated. However, farmers are at a loss and consumers are gainers, he said. The crop sown in July-August has come up for harvesting in September and with arrivals increasing in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, prices have fallen in almost all markets, he said. The tomato season lasts from June to October every year. In Nashik, another tomato growing region, the season starts from August to September. Gadhave’s organisation has been running the Narayangaon open tomato auction as an experiment to eliminate the middleman and help farmers get better prices for their produce. Tomato prices have reduced in other states as well in the North. Market observers say fall in tomato prices is a normal occurrence during the monsoon months, from June to September. This is because of heavy arrivals in the market. The last few months, however, have seen a drastic rise and fall in vegetables prices not only in Maharashtra but also across other states.