Not only in Keonjhar, tomato has landed farmers in the State’s entire tomato belt (except Dhenkanal and Ganjam) in a soup as the vegetable’s price is now in the red with its farm gate prices (price at which a farmer sells) crashing to a mere Rs 2.50 to 4.50 a kg. This when the cost of tomato cultivation per acre is around Rs 18,000 to Rs 20,000 and the cost of production for a farmer at this rate boils down to around Rs 5 to Rs 6 per kg.
In the last week of February, the farm gate prices of tomato have fallen to a new low in most regions of the tomato belt. While the prices have crashed to the lowest of Rs 2.50-Rs 3 in Balangir, Mayurbhanj and Bargarh, the prices on an average rule at around Rs 3.50-Rs 4 in Keonjhar. However in other regions like Dhenkanal and Ganjam, the prices have stayed at around Rs 10 and Rs 7, respectively. In Kendrapada, the farm gate prices are ruling at around Rs 5. This reveals how in a majority of the tomato belt farmers are bearing a big loss as they are selling the vegetable below the production cost.
Now, look at the contrast. When farmers are bearing the brunt of distress sale, the farm gate prices of tomato in other vegetable markets in the State rules quite high. For instance in Paralakhemundi, the price is quoted at Rs 20; and in Sambalpur, it is over Rs 11. The reason: When the glut of tomato in vegetable mandis in the tomato belt led to crashing of prices, lesser supply of the vegetable in other districts had kept the prices firm. But adequate cold storage facilities in the tomato belt could have prevented this glut and the resultant price crash.