Tomatoes in the wholesale market were most expensive on July 31, priced between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 4,400 for every quintal that translated into Rs. 20 and Rs. 44 per kilogram.
“The truth is that tomatoes were even sold for Rs. 70 per kilogram in the wholesale market on Thursday. The supply had dropped a little more due to Eid last Tuesday. A few trucks have started coming from Bangalore. People should wait till later this month for prices to come down,” said Ashok Kaushik, vice-president, Tomato Traders’ Association (TTA).
Though the decrease in supply over the last four months has been gradual, prices mostly shot up in the last week of July. According to data available with Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Azadpur, the largest wholesale vegetable market in Delhi, the minimum price for tomatoes on July 1 was only Rs. 240 per quintal, that is, Rs. 2.4 per kilogram. The maximum price on the same day was Rs. 11.67 per kg. Though the Delhi government is right in saying that wholesale tomato prices this year were less than in July last year, traders say monsoon was a difficult time for tomatoes everywhere.
“Earlier 60 trucks would come everyday, now only 10 come,” said Sanjay Chugh, general secretary, TTA. Farmers in Himachal Pradesh explained what went wrong.
Baldev Thakur, who grows tomatoes in Solan, said 90% of the crop grown alongside streams and local rivers for assured irrigation was damaged due to heavy downpour. The heavy water flow that was expected in July hit the fields in June end itself.
“Such crop along the river is grown at 2000-3000 feet, all of which got damaged. The crop grown at 7,000 feet is now being sold in the market,” Thakur said. He said farmers are now selling each crate (25 kgs) for Rs. 800 and 1,000. Normally, a crate would go for Rs. 250 and Rs. 500.
Tomatoes are sown in February in north India for production in summer. But it’s an off-season for tomatoes now — which normally takes 90 days to grow. While the supply is in any case less during monsoons, farmers say extreme weather conditions have brought down their good crop leading to increased prices.
Rajesh Parihar, who grows tomatoes in open fields near Shimla, said, “A farmer gets 50% of the final price in retail. So if tomatoes are for Rs. 100 per kg in Delhi, we would have sold it for Rs. 40-50 per kg. We have fixed transporters here who take our produce to the Azadpur mandi on days fixed by them.”
He explained that the produce sent from Shimla, Sirmaur, Solan, Mandi is received by specified agents in Delhi who further sell it to the trader or retailer after adding their commission. The retailer buys crates and then fixes the final price for the end consumer depending on his profit margin, transportation cost and the profile of the locality.
“Though the demand is the same, we do not have that much produce this time. Delhi should start getting a better supply in September when other areas like Nasik and Bangalore start sending their tomatoes,” Parihar said.