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Tomato farmers feel the squeeze

K. Raju

DINDIGUL: Sharp fall in tomato prices has forced farmers to abandon tomatoes in their fields to minimise loss.

Plucking and transportation of tomatoes from the field to market will increase the loss manifold. The current wholesale price is just 50 paise per kg at Iyyalur and Oddanchatram, the major tomato wholesale centres.

Retail prices were hovering at Rs.55 to Rs.60 a kg in November and December owing to a sharp slump in production. If the quality is poor, the prices will go down further.

“We have no other option. The fruits must either be allowed to perish in the field or dumped in the backyard for compost. “We will not be able to cover even freight charges if we take this to the market,” said farmers.

Traders fear that this trend will continue for some time. Bringing more area under cultivation and introduction of high yielding variety of tomato among farmers were reasons for the free fall.

After destruction of tomato plants during the last rainy season, fresh seeding laid in thousands of acres in November end has started giving yield now. Now, farmers harvest 750 to 800 kg from an acre. Huge arrivals glut the market, pushing the prices to rock bottom.

“The amount I get today through the sale of 40 boxes does not equal 10 per cent of the procurement price I got in November,” said a farmer from Iyyalur.

“If I transport 40 boxes in a mini lorry to the market from the farm, I get just Rs.600. Traders are the least affected and anyway get 10 per cent of sale price as commission.”

Five major auction centres in Iyyalur have been receiving 4,000 boxes a day. Tomatoes are being transported to Chennai, western parts of the State, and Kerala.

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