Farmers dump tomatoes, onions on highways as supply overtakes demand

In India's largest wholesale market, prices crash even as consumers pay ten times more in retail; farmers demand compensation from govt

Representative Image of farmers sorting tomatoes (Photo by Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)
Representative Image of farmers sorting tomatoes (Photo by Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Farmers in Nashik, the hub of India's largest tomato and onion markets, have once again begun dumping tonnes and tonnes of their produce by the roadside as prices of both crashed in the wholesale markets last week.

Tomato prices in the wholesale markets are ₹2-3 per kilogram while in the retail markets, they are selling for ten times the price at ₹25-30 per kg. Similarly, the prices of onions were slashed from ₹700-1000 per quintal to Rs 350 per quintal in the wholesale market and they are selling at Rs.3.50 per kg in the retail markets.

Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon in Nashik are the centres for onion and tomato sales respectively. Around 10 lakh farmers cultivate tomatoes in the Nashik district, which comprises almost 20 per cent of the country’s production, claim the APMC officials from Mumbai. The market here supplies tomatoes to Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Haryana.

Ajit Nawale, State General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) told the National Herald, “Farmers are facing tough times, especially with regard to perishable commodities like tomatoes and onions due to the low prices offered by wholesalers and traders. The farmers from the Gangapur taluka of the Aurangabad district arrived at Lasur station with tractor trolleys laden with tomatoes and dumped the produce on the side of the highway. The farmers have demanded better procurement rates from wholesalers. The ₹100 per crate, which holds nearly 25 kg of tomatoes, is a huge loss. They need at least ₹300 per crate to break even, even though they will still not be making any profits."

Nawale added that the government has no sympathy for farmers and does not even want to pay them the cost price for the actual procurement of onions and tomatoes “For the perishable commodities like tomatoes, onion and even milk, the government needs to understand that it requires a different policy. The government should compensate farmers facing huge losses,”  he added.

Shankar Pingle, Director APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) (vegetables) at Nashik, said, “ The farmers need to understand that the supply is more than the demand. Whatever can be offered in this situation is given by the wholesalers. The issue is again of these perishable commodities— even traders can't keep holding the stock for too long. The State government can't do anything about this.”

According to the APMC data, the August wholesale price of tomatoes stood at ₹750.63 per quintal in Maharashtra. Last year in the same month, tomatoes were at ₹2,037.77/quintal. And, in July this year, they were being sold for ₹1,044.67 per quintal. 

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