Andhra Pradesh

Blight-hit tomato fields bring low yields, prices hit the roof

Farmers making efforts to tackle the blight at a tomato plantation near Madanapalle in Chittoor district on Saturday.  

After a week’s lull, the retail price of tomato in Chittoor district crossed the ₹100-a-kg mark at the vegetable markets on Saturday, though it is the second quality stock affected with the winter blight. The price of the first variety, meant for export to Chennai and Hyderabad, is hovering around ₹150 a kg. The situation is unlikely to bring respite to consumers in the coming weeks as the price may escalate further.

Horticulture scientists inspecting the blight-hit tomato plantations during the last one month in Madanapalle, Punganur and Palamaner areas have observed that though the crop is generally prone to seasonal blights in winter months from November to February, the magnitude is unprecedented this year, covering vast stretches of fields not only in Madanapalle revenue division, considered the largest tomato-growing belt in Asia, but also the neighboring areas in Karnataka.

The scale of blight prevalence could be guaged by the plummeting arrivals at Madanapalle market yard. On Saturday, it was just 102 tonnes, eight to ten times lesser than the regular arrivals.

Deputy Director (Horticulture) B. Srinivasulu told The Hindu that the regular process of transplanting of seedlings was completely stopped from November 6 onwards following heavy rains and inundation of fields. “The blight spread to a record extent in the tomato belt this year compared to previous years. The impact is very rapid and complete, affecting the plant tissues,” he said.

The official said that due to downpour and waterlogging in the fields, the farmers were forced to stay away from spraying fungicides to control the blight. “The month-long inclement weather added to the intensified damage due to the blight,” Mr. Srinivasulu said.

Srikanth Reddy, Manager of a Chennai-based Agri-Tech company, Way Cool Foods & Products, said the November rains had unleashed enormous losses to farmers in Madanapalle, Chintamani, and Kolar belts. “Close to 5,000 farmers bore the brunt of the November rain,” he said.

Scattered plantations

Meanwhile, a team of horticulture scientists observed that raising of scattered tomato plantations, instead of high-density fields, alone could reward the farmers with prospects of controllable blight conditions and high yields.

“Despite our repeated appeals for raising scattered plantations, nobody heeded our advice,” deplored a senior horticulture department official.


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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 9:08:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/blight-hit-tomato-fields-bring-low-yields-prices-hit-the-roof/article37847215.ece

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