Delhi-NCR will start receiving tomatoes at a discount on Friday after the Centre authorises purchases from surplus states.
The Indian government has announced discounted prices for tomatoes in the Delhi-NCR region in response to the skyrocketing rates. The Department of Consumer Affairs has directed the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers Federation (NCCF) to procure tomatoes from mandis (wholesale markets) in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. These tomatoes will be distributed simultaneously in major consumption centres where retail prices have seen the highest increase in the past month.
The selection of distribution centres is based on the absolute rise in retail prices compared to the previous month, specifically focusing on areas where prices are higher than the national average. The intervention will target key consumption sites in states with a greater number of identified centres.
According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, the average price of tomatoes at the national level is ₹108 per kilogram. However, in different cities, prices have risen significantly. For example, in Delhi, tomatoes are sold at ₹150 per kilogram, while in Lucknow, the price is ₹143 per kilogram. Chennai has seen prices at ₹123 per kilogram, and Dibrugarh at ₹115 per kilogram.
Traditionally, tomato harvesting season peaks from December to February, and during this time, the availability of tomatoes is high. However, this year, the impact has been more severe, leading to a scarcity of tomatoes in the market. Although tomatoes are grown throughout India, the southern and western regions account for a surplus of 56% to 58% of the total domestic output. These regions supply tomatoes to other markets based on production seasons.
The current period coincides with the monsoon season, which adds additional challenges to the supply chain. Issues such as supply chain disruptions and higher transit losses further contribute to the increase in tomato prices.
The government’s decision to provide discounted tomatoes aims to alleviate the burden on consumers facing rising prices. By procuring tomatoes from different regions and distributing them in high-consumption areas, the government seeks to stabilize prices and ensure availability to the public. This intervention is a measure to address the immediate concerns related to tomato prices and provide relief to consumers in the Delhi-NCR region.
It is important to note that the government’s efforts in procuring and distributing tomatoes are aimed at addressing the short-term situation. Measures such as increasing domestic production, improving supply chain infrastructure, and implementing long-term strategies for market stability will be crucial to tackle the issue of fluctuating tomato prices effectively.
The Delhi-NCR region has seen a significant influx of arrivals from Himachal Pradesh and Kolar in Karnataka. However, these arrivals are not just mere travellers; they carry with them the impact of the current agricultural scenario. Experts have highlighted the adverse weather conditions in major tomato-growing areas, including heavy rains and heatwaves, which have severely affected tomato production. As a consequence, the prices of tomatoes have soared, experiencing a fivefold increase since the beginning of 2023, when they were priced at approximately ₹22 per kilogramme.
In response to this critical situation, the government has announced measures to alleviate the tomato shortage. The Centre has declared that there will be an increase in crop delivery from Nashik, a prominent agricultural region known for its tomato production. This move aims to boost the availability of tomatoes in the market and stabilise prices. Additionally, it is anticipated that there will be an extra supply from the Narayangaon and Aurangabad belts in August, contributing further to the tomato stock. Moreover, arrivals from Madhya Pradesh are also expected to commence, which will likely alleviate the pressure on the market and provide some relief to consumers.
The scarcity of tomatoes and the subsequent price surge can be attributed to the unfavourable weather conditions experienced in key tomato-growing areas. Heavy rainfall can damage tomato plants, leading to a reduction in yield and quality. Simultaneously, heat waves can cause stress on the crops, affecting their growth and overall productivity. These combined factors have created a shortage in the tomato supply chain, resulting in a sharp price increase.
Consumers have felt the brunt of this situation, as tomatoes are a staple ingredient in many Indian households. The substantial price hike has put a strain on household budgets, and people have had to adjust their consumption patterns accordingly. Inflationary pressures resulting from the tomato shortage have also affected businesses, especially those in the food industry that heavily rely on tomatoes as a primary ingredient. Restaurants, hotels, and street food vendors have had to grapple with increased input costs, leading to adjustments in their menu offerings and potentially impacting their profitability.
The government’s intervention to increase tomato supply from regions like Nashik, Narayangaon, Aurangabad, and Madhya Pradesh is a step towards addressing this crisis. By bringing in additional produce from these areas, the authorities hope to bridge the gap between supply and demand, thereby stabilising prices. However, the success of these measures will depend on various factors, such as transportation logistics, the quality of the tomatoes, and the extent of the damage caused by adverse weather conditions in the producing regions.
In the long run, agricultural practices and infrastructure must adapt to changing climatic patterns to mitigate the impact of weather-related challenges on crop production. Farmers can explore techniques like protected cultivation, improved irrigation systems, and the use of weather forecasting tools to better manage their crops. Additionally, investments in storage and transportation infrastructure can help minimise post-harvest losses and ensure a more efficient supply chain, ultimately benefiting both farmers and consumers.
The current tomato crisis serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of agricultural production to weather fluctuations and highlights the need for proactive measures to build resilience in the sector. Efforts must be made to diversify agricultural practices, invest in research and development, and provide support to farmers to cope with the challenges posed by climate change and other external factors. Only through a comprehensive and holistic approach can we strive for a stable and sustainable agricultural system that ensures food security and affordability for all.