This summer, tomato prices might see a spike as tomato plantations in Maharashtra have seen a sharp drop in output. Lack of ready cash with growers and an infestation of white flies is being attributed to the drop, which has affected the entire state. 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.
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Deepak Bhise, president of the Tomato Growers Federation of Narayangaon in Junnar taluka of Pune district, claimed that demonetisation was to be blamed for the dip in cultivation area as farmers didn’t have enough cash. “Tomato is a cash-intensive crop as farmers require costly inputs… on an average, an acre of crop would require Rs 70,000 as input cost,” he said.
Currently, demonetisation and a sharp fall in prices of almost all farm produces have shaken the economics of rural areas, making farmers wary of heavy investments. Bhise, who normally plants five acres of tomatoes, has only planted three acres of the crop this year. Another reason for lesser cultivation is the apparent infestation of white flies in tomato-growing areas. “Increase in onion acreage in the last few years has increased the prevalence of white flies in these areas. This pest destroys tomato crop, so many farmers have not opted for tomato this season,” he said.
According to traders at the wholesale markets, lesser agricultural area for tomatoes would result in an increase in the price of the vegetable in the days to come.
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 may also result in a spike in prices.