Tomatoes for a rupee or two a kilo, farmers in Haryana dump their produce in the fields to rot

The prices offered at the wholesale markets for Haryana’s tomatoes are so low that they don’t even cover the transportation costs. As a result, farmers find it better to destroy their yields than selling it.

Arvind Shukla
| Updated: May 15th, 2021

On May 10, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare announced it had allocated Rs 2,250 crores (Rs 2.25 billion) a year for the horticulture sector in the country. On the same day, about 110 kilometres away from the national capital in Haryana’s Bhiwani district, farmers dumped their yield of tomatoes to plough it back into the fields. 

Angered by the low prices being offered by the traders, Rajesh Singh, a local farmer from Bhiwani told Gaon Connection, “Why would I take my produce to the mandi (wholesale market). In the mandis of Chandigarh, the produce is being sold at a rupee or two for a kilogram of tomatoes.” 

Singh, a resident of Ninghana Kala village, about 250 kilometers from state capital Chandigarh, went on to add: “Forget input cost, even the cost of plucking the tomatoes from the field and the transportation cost won’t be covered at this price.” His village falls in the Tosham tehsil which is known for extensive cultivation of crops like tomatoes and capsicum.

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Like Singh, another farmer, Sukhvir Singh Panghal crushed his yield of tomatoes by mowing a tractor on his five hectares of field. 

This is the second consecutive year when farmers have suffered a massive loss and most of the vegetable crops are harvested in the month of May-June.

When asked, the 40-year-old told Gaon Connection that he had invested a total of Rs 800,000 in his field this season. “Had the yield been sold at a reasonable rate as it is sold every year, I would have made sixteen lakh to 18 lakhs of rupees (1.6 million rupees to 1.8 million rupees). 

Also Read: Hot potatoes – Decline in acreage and production pushes potato prices to an all-time high

Vegetable farming is often promoted as an alternative for farmers who practise cultivation of foodgrains in order to encourage them to earn better profits and increase their incomes.

Earlier this week, the agriculture ministry informed that due to interventions by the central government in the horticulture sector, the production of horticultural produce has been the maximum in the year 2019-20 recording a produce of 3.277 million tonnes. The estimates for this year’s (2020-21) production is pegged at 326.58 lakh tonnes.

But the rise in production doesn’t always translate into better incomes for farmers.

High production, low returns

This is the second consecutive year when farmers have suffered a massive loss and most of the vegetable crops are harvested in the month of May-June. 

In the same Tosham tehsil, Anil Kumar had cultivated tomatoes on his 2.5 hectares of fields in the Kharkari Makhwan  village.

“Neither Chandigarh nor Delhi wholesale markets are buying our produce at a profitable rate,” a farmer said.

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“In the summers, we used to get better rates due to the weddings and other social events that used to be held in this season. We had just begun plucking tomatoes from our field  for the last 10-15 days when the lockdown was announced again this year,” he told Gaon Connection.

“Neither Chandigarh nor Delhi wholesale markets are buying our produce at a profitable rate. Same is the condition with gourd, pumpkin and capsicum cultivators,” the 35-year-old  added. 

Anil Kumar’s comments find resonance in the words of Ramesh Kumar, a farmer leader from the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Haryana. “Like Bhiwani district, vegetable cultivation is spread out extensively across Haryana. More than 100 farmers in Kharkari Makhwan itself have suffered a total loss of their produce,” he said.

“There are no buyers for tomatoes. It is being bought at less than two rupees per kilogram. But the cost of tomatoes in cities is almost twenty rupees per kilo. Shops are not being allowed to be opened at the mandis,” said Ramesh Kumar. The government learnt nothing from the losses that cultivators incurred in the last year. It should at least compensate for the losses this time,” he added.

Rajesh Kumar, a wholesale shopkeeper at Delhi’s Azadpur market told Gaon Connection: “The retail sellers who used to buy around 40 kilograms (kgs) of vegetables are buying half of it – around 20 kgs. The stocks that we are ordering are not being sold due to lockdown-related restrictions.”

On the other hand, wholesale price of ladyfinger has increased from Rs 10-15 per kg to Rs 20-30 per kg. Similarly, prices of gourd, chillies, leafy vegetables have gone up. Fruits have also become costlier by 20 per cent to 40 per cent,” the wholesale shopkeeper added.

Higher prices of fuel are being touted as one of the reasons behind food inflation.  In the national capital, on April 10, petrol was priced at Rs 90.56 per litre and diesel at Rs 80.87 per litre.

A month later, on May 10, the price for petrol rose to Rs 91.53 per litre and Rs 82.06 per litre.

Read this report in Hindi