The sudden drop in tomato prices, Tamil Nadu farmers are discarding harvested tomatoes into lake beds. Tomato price has fallen from Rs 20 to Rs 2 this month. According to Shri Dheiva Sigamani, State President, Tamil Farmers Union “Farmers in Rayakottai, Krishnagiri district and Valappadi in Salem, which are the big tomato markets are dumping tomatoes into nearby lakes as they are unable to recover their harvesting costs,” The price of tomato had touched Rs 70 per kg last year and many farmers started cultivating the crop. The price was Rs 20 per kg a month ago, then dropped to Rs 7 per kg. The unexpected drop in prices caused farmers to dump the tomatoes in lake shores.
Sigamani further added that a lot of farmers had cultivated tomatoes due to limited water supply and there was an excess supply of the crop. “Unlike sugarcanes, bananas and tamarind which require a long time and lots of water to grow, tomatoes are short season crops. As water is available only in these three months, we don’t grow long season harvests. So a lot of farmers grew tomatoes which lead to the dip in prices. As tomatoes have a low shelf life and are also fetching low prices, the farmers have chosen to throw them away,”.
AIADMK spokesperson KC Palaniswami said that the central government should come up with a national policy to help the farmers in Tamil Nadu. He also urged the union government to set up a minimum support price (MSP) for tomato farmers. “Further, storage facilities for perishable goods too is something that is being spoken about. NABARD has a few cold storage facilities. But it is insufficient in the rural areas. And NABARD comes under the Central government. So the States do need assistance from the Centre,” he said.
Some of the farmers dumped ripe tomatoes on the road as they failed to get the price that would at least cover their production cost. As per the report, boxes of tomatoes were left unsold at the Udumalpet, Ottanchatram, and Pollachi markets, the main vegetable markets in the Tamil Nadu border.
Farmers had started growing tomatoes as it was profitable and the fruit required less water to cultivate. The subsequent excess supply of tomatoes led to a fall in its selling price. This is basic economics. When supply increases, prices fall – the reason why governments need to step in so that farmers do not incur heavy losses.
Minimum support price is crucial in a market where prices regularly fluctuate. If farmers get only Rs 2 per kg for their produce, it would be more profitable for them to throw the tomatoes than to sell them. If the supply is excess, farmers would have to store the produce. Additionally, there are transportation charges, labour charges, production charges, etc and mere Rs 2 per kg does not cover any of these costs.
Furthermore, throwing away tomatoes is akin to a person throwing away his livelihood. Tomatoes are the bread and butter of these farmers. They don’t want to throw them but are forced to when no other option remains. How do farmers, whose voices are rarely heard by those in power, urge for a change? The solution is to take such drastic measures that their cause can no longer be ignored.
The need of the hour is for the Government to implement MSP and save the farmers when no one is willing to buy their produce. Farmers are the reason we have food on our plates every day and they need to be given more attention.