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Market Redar - Tomato Price Hike

A dear colleague approached me on a bustling weekday and exclaimed, "Gruha, ab toh tomatoes pe post likh do (Gruha, It’s a high time to post on tomato price hike)" It has been a fortnight since tomato prices skyrocketed, and turned into meme material. This neglected veggie seems determined to stay on top of the charts and refuse to become affordable again.

Tomato thieves stealing in a cave

Tomatoes love doing the crop dance in India, with two major seasons for their production. The Rabi crop, grown in Junnar taluka of Maharashtra, as well as parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, graces the market from March to August. After that, the Kharif crop from Uttar Pradesh, Nashik in Maharashtra, and other regions take over the spotlight.

Unfortunately, this year has been one heck of a roller-coaster ride for tomatoes, thanks to some external uncertainties. Unseasonal rainfall in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan played spoil-sport, while pesky diseases had a field day in Karnataka and Maharashtra. As if that wasn't enough, the perishable nature of tomatoes, coupled with their high water content, makes them vulnerable to spoilage.

If we dig down the root causes, it’s excessive soil moisture, dry season or humidity, foliar diseases, inadequacies in cultivating (mechanical harvesting), shelf-life, storage then transportation. But this time, we got a bigger blow: It's the market and its response!Farmers faced a severe shock in March and April this year. In Pune’s wholesale market, tomato prices averaged around Rs 5-10/kg in March and Rs 5-15/kg in April. By May, farmers have no option but to sell their produce for a meager Rs 2.50-5/kg.

As a result, some farmers abandoned their standing crops, while others refrained from planting a second crop in March. The current price surge is a direct consequence of this double blow.In a recent incident, a Kannadiga farmer reported the theft of 50-60 bags of tomatoes worth 2.5 lakhs from her agricultural farm on the night of July 5th.

But hold your (toma)toes! Are Tomatoes the only Vegetable Affected? No!

Currently, the vegetable is touching Rs 200/kg in a few states, while other vegetables such as cabbage, chilies, ladyfinger, cauliflower, and potatoes have also experienced a slight increase in prices in some states. Reports from the Times of India reveal that vegetable prices in Patna have shot up since May. Cauliflower is now costing ₹60 per kg, sprouting from ₹40 per kg in early May (that's a whopping 150% increase!). Even cabbage has managed to double its price, reaching ₹60 per kg from ₹30-40 per kg previously. Potatoes and onions have joined the party too, jumping from ₹20 per kg in early May to ₹30 per kg (a spicy 150% increase) in July.

Modern supply chain problems need innovative solutions.

Although the agricultural sector is still heavily influenced by external factors, certain supply chain strategies can help alleviate the situation. Take, for instance, the genius minds at the Mysuru-based CFTRI who have discovered a way to pickle tomatoes in brine, giving them a longer shelf life. They've got the secret sauce to minimize wastage and stabilize the supply chain. Furthermore, India has taken a stand to stabilize onion prices by banning onion exports in 2019 and 2020 for a few months to neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Interestingly, I came across an attempt to address the issue. The Department of Consumer Affairs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (Innovation Cell), has announced the Tomato Grand Challenge Hackathon. It's a platform where students, faculty, researchers, start-ups, MSMEs, and companies can slice and dice innovative ideas to enhance the entire tomato value chain. From pre-production to primary processing, post-harvesting to storage and valorization, there's a ripe opportunity for improvement. The information page mentions improvement scope through AI and remote sensing interventions

(Read more:

I can't wait to see what they cook up!And here's a tomato on top of the cake: prices are anticipated to take a dip come mid-August after the harvest.

Let's ketchup with the tomato price surge!

Drop a 🍅 tomato emoji in the comment section to show me your support.


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