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Amid market uncertainty, tomato growers face second year of consecutive loss

The harvest season of the summer crop this time has coincided with covid-19 related lockdowns, thereby crashing crop prices across markets.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
May 23, 2021 12:08:43 pm
affected tomato crop, Pune zilla parishad, maharashtra agriculture department, iisc bangalore, indian expressVegetable growers in Maharashtra normally take two crops of tomato from farmers of Niphad taluka in Nashk, growing mainly the kharif crop.

Tomato growers in Maharashtra are facing a second consecutive year of loss as uncertainty of markets have led to a complete price crash in the mandis. Growers, who normally sell their market ready vegetable at around Rs 10-15 per kg are now forced to sell it at an average price of Rs 2-4 per kg.

Ajit Korade, a sugarcane and vegetable grower from the village of Nirewadi in Phaltan taluka of Satara district had taken the crop over three of his total 70 acres of holding. The average price he received from Vashi’s wholesale market in Navi Mumbai was just Rs 4 per kg. “This is a complete wash out for us as the cost of production of top quality crop is Rs 10 per kg,” he said. To top this, Korade had to throw away 40 tonnes of the vegetable, the first pick from his crop early in April, as an unknown virus had led to fruit damage. The per acre yield of summer tomato is around 20-35 tonnes.

Vegetable growers in Maharashtra normally take two crops of tomato from farmers of Niphad taluka in Nashk, growing mainly the kharif crop. Farmers, from Pune and Satara, take the crop during the summer season on assured irrigation. The summer crop fetches a better premium than the kharif crop but the cost of production of the summer crop is higher.

The harvest season of the summer crop this time has coincided with covid-19 related lockdowns, thereby crashing crop prices across markets.

Farmers like Korade, who deal directly with the Vashi’s wholesale market said they at least had market access while others were forced to give up their plot for good. “Traders in Vashi market cited the closure of retail markets and prices dropped drastically,” he said. Superior quality produces which other wise would have commanded Rs 15 per kg is now being sold at Rs 4 per kg.

This price slide, Korade said, came at a time when farmers in Pune and Satara had increased their tomato acreage in anticipation of good prices in the summer season.

Last year, farmers had suffered from the attack of a virus on the crop as well as lack of market while this year the markets have collapsed. Korade also highlighted out how retail prices in urban centres like Pune and Mumbai have not seen much reduction even though wholesale prices have collapsed.

Farmers like Korade said alternate market chains like direct to customers is not feasible for them. “On an average our daily yield is around 3 tonnes so there is no question for us to sell it directly to consumers,” he said. This low prices, Korade said would led him to default on his bank loans and he would be forced to turn to private money lenders to raise finances this kharif.

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