Farmers in Gubbi, Kunigal and Tumkur taluks decided to sow tomatoes in large tracts of land considering the skyrocketing vegetable prices. The three-and-a-half-month crop, they presumed, would mean good and quick returns.
The crash in the tomato prices — to less than Re. 1 a kg — has come as a shock to them now. They say that it neither helps the farmer nor the consumer. While farmers in the villages of Tumkur district are getting 60 paise to 80 paise per kg of tomato, consumers in the city are buying it for around Rs. 10 per kg.
Jayamma of Upparahalli told The Hindu: “I went to buy tomatoes after I came to know that tomatoes are sold at 80 paise per kg, but I had to buy at Rs. 10 per kg.”
Nagappa of Mekharahalli in Sira taluk said that he was offered Rs. 10 per 20-kg carton of tomatoes and farmers had thrown tomatoes on the road at Bukapatna Circle in Sira taluk. “My wife and I have to work as agricultural labourers in others’ fields to take care of our two children,” he said.
For many farmers, the loss is cumulative. Vasanth Kumar and Roopa, farmer couple at Salagame in Hassan district, are hit by the tomato price crash even as they had not recovered from the loss they suffered after cultivating potato in the kharif season. They are now looking at tough times ahead, with three children to be educated. “For routine expenses we are now dependant on two cows we have,” said Ms. Roopa.
Officials at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee expressed helplessness over these turn of events. Deputy Director of Marketing Department, APMC, Tumkur, M.C. Doreswamy, said: “The rates of these perishable commodities is fixed based on the demand.”
Farmers, however, argue for greater regulation. Tumkur district president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sanga (KRRS) Govindaraju said that it is the responsibility of the government to intervene and purchase tomatoes. “The crash is helping middlemen and not consumers,” he pointed out.
Lakshman Gowda, farmer from Kadagamdoddi in Raichur district, associated with KRRS, too blames APMC officials. According to him, tomato supplies from Belgaum to Raichur market is the major reason for the decreased demand there.
“The APMC should make sure that locally grown agricultural produce is purchased by the traders on priority. We have been demanding that the APMC should not allow outside produces whenever the local production is more. However, our request is never considered,” he said.
(With inputs from S. Bhuvaneshwari in Tumkur,G.T. Satish in Hassan and Kumar Buradikattiin Raichur)