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India - Tomato farmers stare at loss asprice crashes on bumper crop

Tomato farmers in the district have stopped harvesting the crop and feeding it to cattle as price has dropped to Rs 5 for a kilogram from Rs 25 a month ago.

Tomatoes are cultivated in about 5,000 hectares in areas like Thondamuthur, Narasipuram, Thenkarai, Nachipalayam and Theethipatti here.

Price has touched a three-year low, said A Jagannathan, an Alandurai-based farmer. “Last year, we sold 12kg (a box) for Rs 300 to Rs 400. Now, we are selling the same quantity for Rs 70 to Rs 80,” he told TOI.

“Farmers in the region had spent over Rs 1 lakh for cultivating tomatoes in an acre. They will have to spend a few thousand more to harvest and transport tomatoes to commission mandis. We have to pay a farmhand Rs 800 a day to harvest 12kg tomatoes. We also need to spend at least Rs 25 for transporting a box. As farmhands from nearby districts including Salem are yet to reach the district, we are witnessing labour shortage. Wages have gone up,” Jagannathan said.

Only marginal farmers are harvesting and sending tomatoes to markets, said P Kandasamy, state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association. “An oversupply has resulted in tomato prices crashing. As they don’t want to bear a huge loss, farmers have stopped harvesting and are feeding it to their cattle,” he said.

Tomatoes are sold in the market for Rs 10 to Rs 25, said vegetable trader Ramaraj. “This year, tomato production has gone up by 50% due to good rain, leading to price crash.”

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