Tomato growers are reeling from heavy losses, hit by low exports and higher produce as the vegetable is cultivated on more areas than before.
Tomato exports slumped in 2017-18 with India recording exports worth only Rs 107.21 crore compared to Rs 548.15 crore in 2016-17. Exports to Pakistan and Bangladesh, major destinations for Indian tomatoes, were especially hit. Last year, just about Rs 34 lakh worth of tomatoes were exported to Pakistan compared to Rs 368.45 crore in 2016-17. Exports to Bangladesh last year were just Rs 4.8 crore compared to Rs 66.69 crore in 2016-17.
Political tension between India and Pakistan led to the suspension of exports via land to Pakistan last year. Exports to Bangladesh were hit after it increased the import duty on agricultural products to an whopping 48 per cent. In Maharashtra, Junnar taluka and neighbouring areas in Pune district are the major growers of rabi tomato, which feeds the markets from March till August. After that, tomatoes from Niphad, Satana and other areas in Nashik district feed the market and stay till around February.
Prices had skyrocketed after July last year as supply was severely hit in the face of low availability of the produce. Farmers in Junnar had stopped using fertilisers and insecticides after March due to lower realisations. The wholesale market at Narayangaon in Junnar and at Pimpalgaon in Nashik are the major tomato markets for rabi and karif crops respectively.
This year, Junnar farmers had failed to recover their expenses as till about late May they had to sell the vegetable at Rs 2-3 per kg. Traders had blamed the suspension of trade with Pakistan and Bangladesh for the bloodbath in the wholesale markets. Besides, instead of the customary 30,000 acres of plantation, this year Junnar and its neighbouring area had seen tomato cultivation on over 40,000 acres.
The spectre of low prices looms large even as the state stares at another bumper cultivation for the kharif crop.