HT Special: No cheer for MP farmers as prices of tomatoes, onions spike
Farmers have blamed the government for fluctuating prices saying it has failed to increase storage capacity for onions or tomatoes as a result of which vegetables rot during bumper production and only traders benefit by hoarding it.Updated: Aug 02, 2017, 23:50 IST
It is not just consumers who are seeing red as tomato prices hit the roof across the country. Farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch-Mandsaur belt are feeling cheated as well. Just two months ago they were facing police bullets for demanding better prices for their bumper crop of onions, which they had to dump by the truckloads on the streets.
In January-February, the same region had seen protests over a tomato glut, with prices crashing to as low as Rs 2 per kg. The subsequent onion bumper crop dragged its price to Rs 2 a kilogram, forcing many farmers to let their produce rot in the fields.
“We have noticed that whenever farmers have perishable items with them, the prices are in the dumps, and the moment it goes into the hands of traders, there is a massive price spike,” says Bhupendra Patidar, a farmer from Barbariya village in Neemuch district.
Six farmers were killed in clashes with police in the Neemuch-Mandsaur region in the first week of June, leading to protests across the state and a demand for government assured minimum price at local markets. The protests forced the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government to procure onions at Rs 8 per kg.
Two months down the line, when the farmers have nothing to sell and are busy sowing for the next season, the prices of most agriculture products have shot up.
In May, the average price of tomatoes in Mandsaur’s wholesale market was Rs 500-700 per quintal. In August first week, it touched Rs 4,500. Similarly, the price of onions almost doubled from Rs 400 to Rs 800 per quintal during the same period.
With local traders adding their profit margin, tomatoes are retailing at Rs 100 or more per kg in most parts of the country. The retail price of onion has crossed Rs 30 per kg, with a further spike expected till the fresh produce lands in September.
“Small and marginal farmers who constitute 85% of the farming community rarely get the benefit of high prices. The reason being they don’t have storage facilities to take benefit of the price fluctuation,” says Patidar, who witnessed the dumping of unsold onions and tomatoes by the roadside this year.
“After last year’s losses, like most farmers, we did not grow tomatoes this season. But now the prices are sky high and only the traders have it,” says Jaswant Carpenter of Pipliyamandi, the epicentre of the farmers’ protest in Mandsaur.
Traders, however, blame low production for tomato prices sky-rocketing.
“There is less production this year and therefore low supply. Most of it is in the hands of the big traders who are releasing it slowly from the cold storage so that the prices do not come down,” says a government official in Indore, not wanting to be named.
Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh president Shiv Kumar Sharma blames the government for the price fluctuations. “In the last 14 years, the government has failed to increase storage capacity for onions or tomatoes as a result of which vegetables rot during bumper production and only traders benefit by hoarding it.”
Given the current spate of rains and floods, traders see no relief in sight due to supply disruption which is likely to continue till August-end. In fact, prices of other vegetables such as brinjal and cabbage will also rise due to reduced supply as the summer vegetable season comes to an end.
(With inputs from Mustafa Hussain)