Mumbai, (The Hindu): A supply glut has sent retail prices of tomatoes through the roof, with the popular vegetable hitting ?100 a kilo in markets across the city and its suburbs. According to retailers, this is perhaps the first time that tomato prices have crossed the ?100 mark, according to retailers. The higher quality tomatoes from Bangalore cost a bit more at ?120 a kg in Mumbai, they said.
“Every monsoon, prices would go up to around ?80 due to shortage, but this time it is worse. There is an acute shortage in the market,” Harishchandra Gupta, a vegetable vendor in the western suburbs, said.
Sources said the sudden shortage in tomatoes is a direct fallout of the state-wide protest by farmers last month. They said rampaging mobs of farmers demanding loan waivers had destroyed truckloads of tomatoes across the State. This, sources said, had forced a large number of marginal tomato farmers to destroy their standing crop as they feared the protest could continue.
“Small farmers were scared. The off-take from their fields had stopped. Fearing more loss, they preferred to uproot the standing crop much before the harvest and plant other crops. This has lead to a supply problem, which is expected to continue till August,” a tomato trader said.
In just two days, prices have gone up from ?80 per kg to ?100 per kg. Two months ago, tomato was selling at ?16 per kg.
“This is the part of the year when Maharashtra supplies tomatoes to many parts of the country including north India. The shortage at in the State has not only pushed prices up in Mumbai, but also in U.P.,” Rajesh Kumar, a vegetable seller, said.
Prices up at retail chains
At supermarkets like Big Bazaar, tomatoes were selling for ?85 to ?90 per kg. Surprisingly, prices at the comparatively upmarket Godrej Nature’s Basket was lower at ?67 per kg. Analysts said this is because such stores have long term supply contracts with growers.
Tomato prices touched ?80 in Mira-Bhayandar and Vasai-Virar, evoking strong reactions from homemakers. “It’s not possible to buy tomatoes any more,” said Ruma Bose, a Vasai resident.
Officials at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Corporation (APMC), Vashi said the supply of tomatoes has gone down by nearly half. “While the demand across the city and its suburbs is more close to 3,000 quintal per day, today only about 1,290 quintal has come to the APMC,” an APMC official said.
Shivaji Pahinkar, secretary, APMC Vashi, said wholesale prices hovered between ?45 and ?60 per kg on Thursday. Declining to pinpoint why tomato supply has dried up, Mr. Pahinkar attributed it to the vagaries of crop production and market economics. “We cannot say for sure why there is a surge in prices,” he said, while ruling out GST as a factor.
Regional mandis (markets) from where retailers procure their supplies are charging between ?70 and ?80 per kg, which is being sold in retail at ?100. “We are not responsible for the retail prices,” said Mr Pahinkar. “You can add 30% to our prices for transport and miscellaneous charges,” he added.
Ramkrishna Yadav, a vegetable seller at Mira Road, is not happy with the soaring prices.
“We plan on picking up a certain amount of vegetables at the wholesale market, but we come away with much less as prices are high. This has been the situation for the past fortnight.”
Ganesh Pinglay, a wholesaler in Vashi, said this price rise could be due to shortfall in production. “A couple of months ago, tomato prices hit rock bottom, and farmers could not even recover their production cost, so they didn’t go ahead with the second tomato crop. “Now they will plant another crop, which should come to the market in another month-and-a-half,” he said.
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