NEW DELHI: The soaring tomato prices appear to have left many red faces in the government. The claims of an integrated market came a cropper when the NITI Aayog recently asked state chief secretaries to explain how there could be huge price difference of the vegetable between neighbouring states.
If the wholesale price of tomato in Rajasthan was about Rs 7 a kg in June, it was almost Rs 17 in the neighbouring Gujarat. And the price difference between these states was not just an aberration. The NITI Aayog told the chief secretaries that while the wholesale price in Madhya Pradesh was about Rs 9 per kg, it was almost Rs 18 in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh in June.
Incidentally, prices of tomato shot through the roof in the last three months, leaving the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) miffed. The PMO asked NITI Aayog to find a permanent solution to the issue.
While the wholesale price of tomato in Odisha was Rs 22 a kg, it was Rs 26 in the neighbouring West Bengal in June. Tomato sold for Rs 17 a kg in the wholesale market in Andhra Pradesh, but it was about Rs 26 in the neighbouring Kerala.
“If we take the average wholesale price of tomato for May, the price difference between sets of neighbouring states indicate the same trend. The wholesale price of tomato in Rajasthan for May was Rs 3.75 per kg, which almost trebled to Rs 9.74 a kg in the neighbouring Gujarat. The prices trebled between Andhra Pradesh and Kerala for May, as the wholesale price for the former was Rs 5.51 against Rs 15.18 a kg for the latter. The data indicate that the state governments have just not been doing what’s expected from them in carrying out market intelligence to check prices of essentials,” said a senior official of the NITI Aayog.
Spelling out that strategic intervention will be required to make timely intervention, NITI Aayog has asked the state governments to begin work on war-footing to create storage capacities for tomato with the help of private players, besides making use of initiatives, including e-National Agriculture Market to break barriers for free flow of essential kitchen items.
“Between May and June, price of tomato increased by 70 to 215 per cent for want of storage, value chain, and shorter shelf life. This is in contrast to the fact that there had been bumper crops and the farmers not getting good prices, but the consumers burning deep holes in their pockets,” said the NITI Aayog official.