4 May, 2018
A bumper harvest in Haryana and other states have led to a crash in tomato prices, fuelling farm distress
The Charkhi Dadri mandi in Haryana, about three hours from Delhi, wore a forlorn look on 30 April: quiet and clean except for some tomatoes littering the ground, an old woman scavenging the good ones, and some crates of tomatoes left behind by farmers.
It is here that hundreds of farmers staged a protest a few days ago as wholesale tomato prices crashed to as low as less than a rupee a kg. Later during an auction at the mandi (wholesale market) on 30 April evening , a small truck of tomatoes sold for Rs. 6 per crate of 25 kg—or about 24 paisa per kg. The same evening, tomatoes sold in Delhi’s retail markets between Rs. 15-20 per kg. It takes at least Rs.4 to grow a kilo of tomato, and between Rs. 5-7 when grown on leased land using hired labour.
“Due to a bumper harvest in Haryana and other states prices have crashed… we are getting fewer calls from buyers from outside the state,” said Ajay Punya, a trader at the mandi. The glut has reached a point where goshalas—shelters for abandoned cows —are flush with so much free tomatoes that they are refusing to take anymore. “The cows are suffering from loose motions after eating too many tomatoes,” quipped another trader.
A woman scavenges tomatoes at the Charkhi Dadri Mandi in Haryana where a glut has led to a steep fall in wholesale prices to as low as 25 paisa per kg.
Rakesh Sangwan’s farm is half-an-hour’s ride from the mandi. A week back Sangwan, 27, took a tough decision: he stopped irrigating his seven-acre tomato field. “Current prices will not pay for plucking and transport costs… so no point in wasting water, I am letting the crop wither on the field,” said Sangwan, who increased the area under the vegetable, partly because he had earned a handsome profit last year.
Sangwan is not the only farmer reeling under a price crash. Consecutive years of record harvests of foodgrain, oilseeds and perishable horticulture crops have led to a crash in prices, fuelling distress in India’s farms in a year when several agriculturally important states such as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan go to polls.