TIRUCHY: Were you one of those who blamed the farmer who grew tomatoes when the price of the vegetable went through the roof after the skies opened up? If so, you were off the mark totally as none of the farmers benefitted from the price hike in the market.
As Thekkamalai, a tomato farmer from Vaiyampatti in Trichy district, told TNIE, “Usually I grow tomatoes on about an acre. But, due to the incessant rains, I planted tomatoes only on a small portion of my land. Under normal situations, tomatoes are procured from me for just Rs 15-20 a kg. Whenever there is a demand, the price increases to Rs 30. For the first time, however, the procurement price suddenly went up this week to Rs 70 for tomatoes, which were sold in the market for Rs 120 and above.”
Thangavel, another farmer from T Kovilpatti, said, “Though commission mandis and traders get big profits, the demand has increased procurement price, thereby benefiting farmers to some extent. On the flipside, the heavy downpour has tremendously affected the yield. At least one-third of the tomato yield has been affected on my land from the beginning of this month. So, whatever little profit we are getting now is just compensating for the loss we incurred owing to the rain-inflicted damage. The middlemen and traders are ones who are the unaffected.”
To understand the trade dynamics that leaves less profit for the farmers, it works like this – from the farm, tomato goes to the commission mandis and then to traders. Price of procurement from farmers is fixed by the commission mandis on a daily basis, based on the demand and supply. Traders buy it from mandis and sell it to consumers. Price doubles in this process.
Why the farmers cannot sell their produce directly? Thangavel said, “All the farmers cannot sit and sell their produce the whole day like traders do. We have other work to do as well. I am a tailor. After the farm works, I stitch at a shop in nearby town.” Three days ago when tomato price was Rs 120 and above for consumers, the vegetable was procured from Thangavel for just Rs 67.
Saravanakumar, a farmer from C Kallpatti, said “This incessant rains spoiled tomato cultivation. We have to take extra care to grow tomato during the rainy season. For that, we spend extra money. Despite that, yield gets affected. We are getting 10 to 20 boxes of tomato only in place of 100 boxes an acre as the rains affect flowers and pollination.”
Farmers demanded that the government come up with a mechanism to fix prices of vegetables so that they would not be affected when there was surplus. On Friday, the price of tomato fell to `90 in supermarkets and Rs 60-70 in Gandhi Market in Trichy. The decrease was due to the government’s intervention and also because of the supply from other States.
Otherwise, tomato cultivation is underway on around 200 hectares in Tiruchy district, predominantly in Vaiyampatti block. But, the plants on just a few hectares are yielding tomatoes now, whereas those in the rest of the lands are yet to ripen. The cultivation of tomato in most of the places in Tiruchy and neighbouring districts is in unripen stage. The plants that are in this stage will take over a month to yield tomatoes.