The skyrocketing tomato prices in India have garnered whopping eight-fold profits for farmers, one of whom has earned an additional income of over INR2 crores, as the country grapples with a food crisis with the fruit shortage.
The windfall, however, may be temporary following a likely rise in supplies expected in the coming weeks. According to data compiled by the Indian food ministry, retail prices of the fruit in Delhi reached INR178 per kilogram, a staggering jump of over 700% since the beginning of the year; meanwhile, the national average stood at nearly INR120 on that day.
The price hike for tomatoes was a result of heavy rains in the country that disrupted supplies but caused immense concern among consumers who have temporarily cut back on purchasing tomatoes — an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine.
However, tomato growers have been delighted by this exceptional situation.
Farmers Ishwar Gaykar and his wife Sonali grow tomatoes in Maharashtra’s 12 acres of land. During this price surge trend, they have witnessed their profits going up to INR24 million in the current season. Last year, they made just INR1.5 million.
The couple has now become the largest tomato suppliers in their region, while Ishwar has received a celebrity status locally, with media seeking his interviews.
Approximately 350 tons of tomatoes have been supplied by the husband-wife pair in recent weeks, while they expect to sell another 150 tons, barring unfavourable weather conditions.
“About one and a half months ago, tomatoes were fetching barely INR2.5 a kilogram. Supply is thin, while demand remains strong,” Ishwar said, who bore INR2 million worth of loss during the same season in 2021.
The couple has three harvests yearly, while their current crop is around 120 to 140 days old.
Tomato supply in India has been severely affected by transportation disruptions triggered by heavy monsoon rains and floods in certain areas. Meanwhile, inflation in the country is likely to increase as the prices of other vegetables have also risen.
To address the issue, the Indian government has begun selling tomatoes at subsidised rates through mobile vans at various locations. While this has had some impact, prices remain exorbitantly high for consumers in the 1.4 billion people nation.
“I have never seen my produce getting this high a rate. Less than two months ago, farmers were literally forced to throw away tomatoes or feed the fruit-bearing plants to the cattle,” another farmer Mahendra Nikam said, whose tomatoes earned him INR130 per kilogram in Surat.