The Tomato Story, From CCTV Surveillance to the Road

Just a  month ago, farmers in Maharashtra went to great lengths to protect their tomato crop and even used CCTV surveillance of these precious kitchen items while reaping ₹200 per kg from the crop. Today, however, prices have come down to just ₹2-5 per kg, leaving farmers transporting their tomatoes to the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs)  with no option but to dump their produce by the roadside as they are unable to even meet the transportation costs to return the tomatoes. Due to overproduction and rising supply, tomato prices have fallen to ₹ 200 per quintal in several APMCs in Maharashtra. Just a few weeks ago, the highest price of tomatoes in Aurangabad APMC was ₹ 8,000 per quintal and other APMCs were trading tomatoes at the same prices. 

 However, due to oversupply, prices have now fallen below ₹80  per kg in Latur, forcing farmers to abandon their produce and start protests.  According to traders, the increase in  the price of tomatoes in recent months has prompted many farmers to switch to tomato cultivation, leading to an oversupply situation. In addition, the market closure  during the G20 summit disrupted supply in the Delhi market, which contributed to the drop in prices. 

  Why a roadside dump? 

 Farmers who cannot even afford the transport cost to collect their produce from  APMC are facing another problem. “What do we do with  tomatoes? After harvesting, tomatoes can only be stored for a few days. We don’t have proper storage facilities or processing units,” says Raju Nikam, a farmer in Nashik. 

 The data shows that tomato processing remains a highly neglected sector in India despite the wide use of processed tomato products in households,  food processing, snacks, hotels, restaurants and fast food. India’s share of world tomato production is 11 percent, but less than one percent of India’s tomato production is processed.

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