Tomato prices have 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, including Maharashtra. Traders and cultivators attribute the price rise to short supply and aftereffects of the recent farmer strike when the fruit continued to remain on the crop, affecting its productivity. Top officials of the Vegetable Growers Association of India (VGAI) say that prices could shoot up further if monsoon plays truant. According to Shriram Gadhave, president of VGAI, arrivals have reduced by almost 75% in the market resulting in a price hike. Production has been affected and consequently, the arrivals have taken a hit, he said. In June last year, tomato prices had crossed the Rs 70-per-kg mark in retail markets in many parts of the state, as a severe drought had destroyed the rabi crop. This year, lesser cultivation has resulted in a spike in prices. In the Pune Agriculture Produce Market Committee ( APMC), farmers bring tomatoes from neighbouring Ambegaon, Khed, Satara and Sangli and arrivals are to the tune of 1,500 quintals. However, untimely rains in May hit production in these areas, resulting in disease and affecting the crop. The Pune market gets its supplies from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and since plantation reduced in these areas, it affected production as well. Farmers say the cost of production has risen, making the crop unviable.
In Vashi, one of the biggest markets of Mumbai, tomato prices have escalated to Rs 60-80 per kg in retail. There is no definite cause for the increase, with middlemen at Vashi APMC blaming ambiguous causes – from November’s demonetisation to the farmers’ strike in June as well as “inclement weather”. Mumbai receives its quota of tomato from areas in Karnataka as well as Satara, Sangli and Narayangaon in Pune. In Nashik – one of the biggest tomato growing belts in the state – arrivals have reduced to barely 240 quintals with minimum prices ranging between Rs 2,400 to Rs 4,750 per quintal. Market officials say the arrivals have reduced to a great extent.
In Pimpalgaon Baswant, another large tomato growing belt in Nashik, there are no tomato arrivals as yet. Market officials say plantation is in progress and the season should commence after a month or so. As against the 34,500 hectares of plantation used to cultivate tomato during summer, this year the state has seen 31,012 hectares of farmland used for the crop. The dip in area is significant in the tomato-growing districts of Pune, Nashik, Satara and Sangli.
Nashik is the main supplier of tomatoes to most parts of the country. Pimpalgaon 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 at 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 hectares 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. Pune, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Dhule Satara, Sangli and parts of Marathwada are the main tomato-growing areas of Maharashtra. In Narayangaon – one of the biggest tomato markets near Pune that runs a farmers auction – the arrivals have reduced to some 40,000 crates (1 crate contains 20 kg), Normally, arrivals at this auction are in the range of 1 lakh crates.
Gadhave said that productivity has been affected due to the recent farm strike during which the fruit was left hanging on the crop itself. As against the 1,000 crates per acre, productivity has reduced to some 200 crates. Arrivals have reduced to some 25%.
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 escalated in other states as well in the north. Market observers say tomato prices shooting up is a normal occurrence during the monsoon months, from June to September. This is because the stock spoils easily during the rain. According to wholesalers, the situation will remain the same until fresh supplies arrive in the markets by August-end.