Andhra Pradesh

Drowning in losses, Madanapalle’s tomato farmers depend on imports

Tomato crates awaiting loading into a Chennai-bound lorry at a field near Kurukshetra in Haryana on Saturday.

Tomato crates awaiting loading into a Chennai-bound lorry at a field near Kurukshetra in Haryana on Saturday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Amidst lingering fears among the consumers about the chances of the tomato prices crossing the ₹150-200-a-kg mark in the coming weeks, some of the experienced traders of the Madanapalle division have ventured into the risky business of importing tomatoes from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh into the Southern States.

The first-grade tomato received a tag of ₹92 a kg, followed by ₹72 a kg for the second quality in the wholesale market, which in turn commanded ₹150 and ₹120 in the retail market on Saturday. Moreover, the daily arrival of stocks plummeted to a negligible 136 metric tonnes at Madanapalle, which houses Asia’s largest tomato market.

Tomato growers in the Madanapalle division deplored that the unusual downpour a few days ago had further damaged the standing crops, leading to a crash in the yields. Predicting further spike of tomato prices till mid-July, the growers said the fresh batch of arrivals would hit the market only after two months, that too with highly-truncated acreage due to non-availability of investment and the still lingering fears of the COVID threat, impacting the exports sector.

Against this backdrop, a few farmers from Madanapalle and Valmikipuram mandals of Annamayya district, who claimed that they had lost several lakhs of rupees on raising the tomato crops during the pandemic, have left for Haryana in the last two days. In Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the tomato price stood at ₹30-20 a kg based on quality on Saturday.

“A lorry load, approximately 20 tonnes, of tomatoes will cost about ₹12 lakh to reach A.P. markets. Going by the present situation in the State, we hope to reap decent profits now. Minus the damages due to 50-hour transportation, this perishable stuff can be sold three times the price we purchased. We are targeting the super-markets in Chennai, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mumbai,” R.M. Nasir Ali (52), a farmer-turned trader from Madanapalle, currently at Kurukshetra in Haryana, told The Hindu.

Manjunath Kokkanti, another farmer from Valmikipuram, said that he was leaving for Chandigarh in a couple of days.

“Between 2020-22, I lost ₹33 lakh on tomato cultivation due to lockdowns and restrictions of transport and total absence of exports. Now, the prospects of profits are dismal here, and it will take another year for tomato farming to stabilize. I could mobilize ₹15 lakh to handle imports to southern States. I am sure of clicking on this deal considering ground realities in the domestic market. I hope to partly recover from my previous losses,” he said.

Terming the idea of venturing into imports from the extreme northern States a “riskiest gamble”, several tomato growers and farmers yet maintain that it is worth taking. They say that this will also help the consumers elsewhere in the southern States. The prices may come down below ₹70 in the open market, they said.

Officials of the horticulture and marketing departments responding to the risk being taken by Madanapalle growers-turned-traders, observed that “not all can take it.”

They know the ABCD of tomato trade dynamics, having seen the worst of worst in the COVID years. There is no question of tomato prices going down for another two months, and this is going to be a big assurance to them, the officials said.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2022 5:23:15 pm |