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Thursday, June 04, 2020

Maharashtra: High input costs, low returns, throw tomato growers off-balance

Tomato growers of Junnar take their crop during summer months, when prices of vegetable tends to be robust. Thanks to the network of five dams in the taluka, a rabi crop becomes feasible for the growers.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | Published: May 5, 2020 7:48:24 pm
When contacted, Agricultural Commissioner Suhas Diwase said action will be taken against anyone overcharging farmers.

High input costs and low returns have thrown tomato-growers of Junnar into distress, right at the beginning of the rabi season. As traders from bigger markets stay away, wholesale prices have collapsed, with farmers being forced to sell their produce at throw-out prices.

Tomato growers of Junnar take their crop during summer months, when prices of vegetable tends to be robust. Thanks to the network of five dams in the taluka, a rabi crop becomes feasible for the growers here. Narayangaon’s wholesale mandi is an important tomato market for traders from Mumbai, West Bengal and Delhi, among others. The produce is also exported from this market.

The lockdown, however, has thrown the trade out of gear, as traders from Mumbai and other places have remained absent from the market. Junnar farmers plant their crop in February and the first picking starts mid-April. The early crop generally fetches good return with traders, who buy the vegetable at around Rs 20-25 per kg.

However, the lockdown saw large-scale migration of traders from the mandi of Junnar. Deepak Bhise, the chairman of Junnar’s tomato growers association, said mostly traders from Mumbai, Delhi and West Bengal trade in their market. “Due to the lockdown, none of the traders from the bigger markets were present,” he said. Thus, when the arrivals are picked up, growers were forced to sell at the rate of Rs three to five per kg. Farmers normally sell their produce in crates of Rs 20 kg each. Stoppage of road transport to Bangladesh has also had its effect, as the produce from Junnar goes to the neighbouring markets.

What has foxed Bhise and other growers is that tomatoes priced at higher rates are fetching markets of Mumbai and Pune. “This does not make sense – the district authorities should ensure our producers are at least able to get back their cost of production,” he said.

As if the crash in prices was not enough, farmers also have to bear with the sudden increase in input costs. A 45 kg back of urea, which before the lockdown was priced at Rs 270, is now being sold at Rs 320. Similarly, complexes like Nitrogen Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK), which were retailing at Rs 1,100 per kg, have now been appreciated to Rs 1,320.

“The story is the same with fungicides and pesticides, which are necessary for tomato crop,” Bhise said. He added that no district authorities were available for lodging complaints in this regard.

When contacted, Agricultural Commissioner Suhas Diwase said action will be taken against anyone overcharging farmers.

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