SAMBALPUR/BARGARH: It is a repeat of 2015-16 situation for tomato growers this year. In absence of cold storage, support from Horticulture Department, marketing facility and food processing industries, farmers grow tomatoes to rot in the field. Debt is back to haunt them and a bleak future looms large.
In 2015-16, farmers had dumped tomato on the streets due to lack of cold storage. This year, reports of bumper tomato crop have been received from across western Odisha and after distress sale of tomato for a brief period, the farmers look blank. The traders are offering them anything between Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg and it is insufficient to cover even the harvesting cost. The farmers said they can get some profit when tomato is sold by them at Rs 10 and above.
As the situation stands today, 1.5 kg of tomato is available at Rs 10 in retail market. It clearly indicates that the traders are getting more than the farmers even as traders confided that the cost of transportation is more than the cost of tomato. Although there are cold storages, marginal farmers cannot afford to store it in the facility. The Horticulture Department could have stepped in and worked out some solution but the officials here seem indifferent to the problem.
As per official data, tomato has been cultivated over 50 to 60 hectares (ha) in Bargarh. But unofficial figures put it at 150 ha. Taking advantage of the situation, traders from outside the State are buying the seasonal vegetable when it is cheapest and storing those to sell at high price later.
Bargarh not only leads in paddy cultivation but also supplies substantial quantity of vegetables to the entire State. Vegetables are grown both in non-irrigated areas like Ghess, Kuchipali, Bijepur, Ambabhona and irrigated areas like Jamurda, Panichattar, Barhaguda, Tora, Sarla, Jampali, Balijuri and Sarsara of the district. Despite the fact that the farmers are always exposed to distress sale, the State Government and the district administration in particular have failed miserably to protect their interest.
Dileswar Pradhan of Ganjiatikra village in Bargarh district had cultivated tomato in 2.5 acres. But he has left his entire crop in the field to rot for lack of demand. Similar is the plight of Gopal Pradhan of the village. He said though their village has a name for vegetable cultivation, they do not have means to preserve it. This has forced him to leave tomato in the field. Such is the situation in tomato crop that farmers are finding it difficult to pay to the farm labourers engaged by them. This has led the farmers to engage their family members to harvest tomato and sell it for Rs 25 to Rs 28 per crate weighing 28 to 30 kg.