The lakes of Tamil Nadu are turning red, with scores of farmers discarding freshly harvested tomatoes into lakebeds, after tomato prices plummeted from Rs 20 to Rs 2 this month.
“Farmers in Rayakottai, Krishnagiri district and Valappadi in Salem, which are the big tomato markets are dumping tomatoes into nearby lakes as they are unable to recover their harvesting costs,” said Dheiva Sigamani, State president, Tamil Farmers Union.
Explaining the reason behind the drop in prices, Sigamani said that lots of farmers opted to grow tomato, a short season crop, due to limited water supply for irrigation and this resulted in a dip in prices due to excess supply.
“Unlike sugarcanes, bananas and tamarind which require a long time and lots of water to grow, tomatoes are short season crops. As water is available only in these three months, we don’t grow long season harvests. So a lot of farmers grew tomatoes which lead to the dip in prices. As tomatoes have a low shelf life and are also fetching low prices, the farmers have chosen to throw them away,” he added.
Dheiva also stated that the farmers were not agitating, but simply disposing off the fruit as they will start to rot if stored.
“Three months ago, the prices were Rs 20 per kilo, then it dropped down to Rs 7 per kilo a month ago and now it has again plummeted to Rs 2. This will not let farmers recover the harvesting costs which include the high labour charges and transport costs,” he said.
Speaking to TNM, AIADMK spokesperson KC Palaniswami said that the central government should come with a national policy to help farmers in the states.
"The remedy to this situation is setting a minimum support price (MSP) for the farmers. This is required for all products. This is also the general demand of the farmers. However, the government is in the process of implementing MSPs and we need the central government's assistance in this. Further, storage facilities for perishable goods too is something that is being spoken about. NABARD has a few cold storage facilities. But it is insufficient in the rural areas. And NABARD comes under the Central government. So the States do need assistance from the Centre," he said.
The Union Budget 2018 promised to relieve farmer distress by announcing that the central government would fix MSPs which would guarantee farmers 50% return over their production costs.
However, there is no specific budgetary provision for the same and how this will be carried out remains vague, with the government only promising a foolproof mechanism so that farmers get the required prices for their crops.