Pune: Santosh Jagtap, a farmer from the Saswad region of Pune district, has seen the worst dream for a farmer come true, when 400 kilograms of tomato produce grown with his hard work and inputs, fetched him merely Re 1 in return. The current state of the tomato crop in the market has been a cause of grief for farmers, as the prices of the commodity have hit dirt low prices.
The tomato has always faced extreme fluctuations in its pricing along with onions and other commodities. The commodities face major problem in keeping prices stable, because the marketing system for these commodities lacks the storage, transportation and processing industries required for them which would be beneficial for both farmers and customers.
The Union government coincidentally, had announced a TOP (Tomato, Onion, Potato) policy in this year’s budget as last year too, onions and tomatoes had seen high levels of volatility. With its TOP policy, the government intended to create a focused environment to make the market systems of the three commodities efficient by creating modern storage facilities where the produce could be refrigerated, refrigeration enabled vehicles for their transportation and incentivising processing industries near the regions where these commodities are grown.
The experience faced by Jagtap however, makes hopes raised from TOP policy, fall flat. Jagtap says, “Even though there have been deficit rains this year, farmers have cultivated a high quality crop with sheer will power. I sent 17 crates of tomatoes to the Mumbai market, which means 400 kg of produce,” adding, “At the current prices, I received Rs 1,332 for my produce. After deducting transportation and labour costs, which came to be Rs 1,331, I got Re 1 as my earning.”
Jagtap says that this has been actually a profit, however, marginal. “I have been selling my produce for a couple of weeks now. Today, I at least earned 1 rupee, for all my hard work and inputs. Prior to this, I was getting messages from agents to send money to them instead,” he says, adding, “I invested almost Rs 50,000 per acre of the crop. If I had made manure of my crop and sold instead, I would have earned better.”
Deepak Bhise of Tomato Growers Association, Narayangaon, says that this is an insult to farmers. “Farmers have been asking for remedies and support from the government for years. Everyone knows what the issues are and what the solutions are, but instead of solving the problem, the government made it worse this year by banning export of tomato,” Bhise says, adding, “If it is a clear loss, a farmer can still take it his stride. But by paying him just Re 1, the system has played a cruel joke on the farmer.”