NEW DELHI, INDIA (TEH) – Unprecedented, skyrocketing tomato prices are heralding a season of opulence for some Indian agriculturists, although this fortuitous period could be fleeting due to a prospective surge in supplies over the coming weeks. On Sunday, retail prices for tomatoes were reported to be a staggering 178 rupees ($2.20) per kilogram in Delhi — a stratospheric rise of over 700% since the dawn of the new year, according to statistical data amassed by the food ministry, reports the Deccan Herald. The national median price was close to 120 rupees on the same day.
This dramatic price escalation, triggered by adverse weather conditions impeding supplies, has put consumers on edge. Many Indian households, finding the cost untenable, have temporarily decided to abstain from purchasing tomatoes — an indispensable component of staple Indian cuisines. Nevertheless, the growers are reveling in their windfall.
Ishwar Gaykar and his spouse Sonali, who cultivate tomatoes on a 12-acre (4.9 hectares) parcel of land near Junnar in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, have reportedly raked in a profit nearing 24 million rupees this season. This presents a stark contrast to their earnings from the preceding year, which amounted to merely 1.5 million rupees. The couple, who engage between 60 to 70 daily wage laborers to oversee their expansive fields, have emerged as dominant suppliers of tomatoes in their region. Consequently, Ishwar has found himself in the limelight, with local media agencies vying to interview him.
“Approximately six weeks ago, tomatoes were commanding a meager price of 2.5 rupees per kilogram,” Ishwar recounted, who bore a loss of nearly 2 million rupees during the same period in 2021. He further remarked, “Supply remains sparse, whilst demand continues to surge.”
The duo has distributed around 350 tons of tomatoes in recent weeks and anticipate selling an additional 150 tons shortly, assuming that weather conditions remain favorable. They harvest thrice annually, with their current crop aged between 120 to 140 days.
The surge in prices has been exacerbated by transport disruptions following torrential monsoon downpours and flash floods in several regions. Consequently, an upward trend in inflation is expected as other vegetable prices have also escalated. This predicament has stirred heated discourse on social media and secured front-page coverage in newspapers. Consumers have decried both divine forces and governmental bodies for the current state of affairs.
The recent rise in tomato prices across India could jeopardise the headline inflation forecast, according to another recent study by the #RBI's development research group, which suggested better supply management to ensure price stability.https://t.co/32GelRQekU
— Economic Times (@EconomicTimes) July 18, 2023
In response, the government has begun selling tomatoes at subsidized prices in numerous areas, even dispatching mobile vans for the task. This initiative is yielding some respite, but prices still remain exorbitantly high for consumers in a populous nation of approximately 1.4 billion inhabitants.
Tomatoes are traditionally priced higher during the monsoon months of July and August, but this year’s spike is an anomaly. Although prices are forecasted to recede in the subsequent weeks with improved logistics, farmers are currently basking in their unexpected prosperity.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision my produce fetching such a high price,” Mahendra Nikam, another farmer whose tomatoes garnered as much as 130 rupees per kilogram in Surat, a city in Gujarat state, said, recalling a time less than two months ago when farmers were essentially compelled to discard their tomatoes or use them as cattle feed due to lack of demand.
Deepak Chavan, an independent analyst based in Pune, revealed that nurseries are experiencing a heightened demand for tomato plants owing to the recent price surge. “While this fortunate circumstance might be short-lived, I wouldn’t be taken aback if we encounter a glut-like situation come September,” he predicted.