PUNE: Originally from South America, the tomato has become an important ingredient of many Indian recipes across the country. In addition to the weak supply chain, this perishable crop suffers 30 per cent damage during transportation. As the prices of the commodity took a steep dip recently, farmers are struggling to recover their input costs as their produce retails at Rs 4 to 5 per kg.
Agriculturalists say that tomato needs a lot of inputs for cultivation. “Tomato is a 4-5 month crop. Any farmer, who wants to cultivate the crop, has to begin with ploughing, weeding and manure purchase. It means the farmers would need initial investment of at least Rs 40,000 to 50,000,” said Deepak Bhise of the Tomato Utpadak Sangh, who is a farmer from Narayangaon near Pune.
Bhise said that the fluctuation in the prices is mostly due to market situations and government policies. “Last year for example, because of demonetisation, small farmers did not have the capital to cultivate tomatoes. Only the rich farmers did. That made the supply of tomatoes to market scarce and we saw that the prices skyrocketed,” he said.
“If rain gets delayed and the temperature remains warmer, the fruit ripens earlier and the farmers bring the produce to the market, where produce from other states is already in stocks. This creates a surplus stock and the prices tank,” Bhise said, adding, “Sometimes the government bans exports to major buyers like Pakistan and Bangladesh. This also floods the markets.”
Bhise said in a normal season, the Narayangaon market, which is one of the major markets supplying tomatoes across India, sees a huge quantity of tomatoes being purchased. “When the purchase season is ongoing, traders purchase almost 1,100 tonnes of tomatoes from the Narayangaon market. Our tomatoes are taken to markets in Delhi, Kolkata, etc,” said Bhise.
Shankar Jadhav, a farmer from Narayangaon, however, barely scraped a small profit. “I cultivated tomatoes in an area of 1 acre. After toiling for four months and investing almost Rs 1 lakh for the same, I sold my produce for around Rs 1.20 lakh. Rs 20,000 for my hard work of 5 months,” Jadhav rued.