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Tomato glut hits farmers hard

Tomato glut hits farmers hard
Highlights

Growing tomatoes in Chittoor district and especially in Madanapalle division is always a gamble. After handsome price tomatoes fetched for farmers...

Tirupati: Growing tomatoes in Chittoor district and especially in Madanapalle division is always a gamble. After handsome price tomatoes fetched for farmers last year because of shortage in production, they had gone in for tomatoes this time on a very large scale resulting in over supply.

The farmers were caught unawares when the prices began crashing. In April – June last year, the price brought cheers to growers and in June 2017, the first-grade tomatoes were sold between Rs 30 and Rs 35 per kg in Madanapalle market as against Rs 2 to Rs 4 during January to March this year. At some point, they have even crossed Rs 40 per kg and the farmers were on cloud nine.

Expecting a repeat of favourable market conditions, the farmers went in for tomatoes in large tracts even by taking lands on lease from others. In Madanapalle division itself, tomatoes are being grown in about 35,000 acres. With this, the production has shot up and the market yard in Madanapalle is getting more than 1,400 metric tonnes per day as against 800-850 metric tonnes in the same season last year. Another 30 per cent crop goes to other markets like Kalikiri, Gurramkonda and Punganur.

Farmers attribute the main reasons for high yield to drip irrigation, which can reduce the heat and increase water supply to the crop. Due to modern techniques in cultivation, the farmers could get 25-30 metric tonnes of tomatoes per acre by spending Rs 1 to Rs 1.25 lakh which is more than what one spends in conventional farming.

If they get a price of little over Rs 10 per kg, they can get a profit of Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 per acre. But, the price did not go to that level this season and was hovering between Rs 5 and Rs 10 depending on the quality. Basha, a farmer in B Kothakot said that he grew tomatoes in two acres and spent Rs 2 lakh, got only Rs 80,000.

Chairman of Madanapalle market yard Ratakonda Gurrappa Naidu says that they did not expect unusually high arrivals of tomatoes this year. Though the capacity of market yard is only less than 1,000 tonnes, they have been getting more than that and facing several problems.

President of Hamali workers in the market yard SK Masthan said that reduction in exports has also contributed to the fall in the price. Due to severe heat conditions and high use of pesticides the quality of crop has been affected leading to rejection by buyers. In fact, Madanapalle tomato used to have huge export demand as it used to have a long shelf life. But, the present conditions have reduced the quality as they are rotting in just two days.

However, Gurrappa Naidu says that they have been creating awareness to grow and export a particular variety of tomatoes which is green in colour to Guwahati and other far off places so that they will remain fresh for many days.

Similarly, light coloured tomatoes are being exported to Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, while red tomatoes being sent to nearby areas. However, the farmers’ losses are also due to increasing transport costs. With the diesel and toll gates charges going up, they are incurring an additional expenditure while transporting the tomatoes to the market.

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