INDIA – Tomato prices in Pune City have surged by over 200% in the last two weeks, driven by a sharp decline in supply following relentless heavy rainfall.

Retail prices have skyrocketed from INR 20-30 (USD 0.24 – 0.36) per kg to INR 40-60 (USD 0.48 – 0.72) per kg, while wholesale rates have surged from INR 5-8 (USD 0.06-0.10) per kg to INR 15-20 (USD 0.18-0.24) per kg.

This scarcity has not only impacted household budgets but also sparked frustration among consumers. Additionally, farmers are grappling with the aftermath, with some unable to afford planting and transportation expenses due to the previous price crash.

“A sharp drop in supply due to heavy rainfall in recent weeks has prompted this surge in tomato prices,” highlighted a senior official from the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), expressing concern over a possible further increase.

“Tomatoes and onions are essential kitchen staples. The sudden price hike has made it challenging for us to manage our household expenses,” lamented Savita Vaidya, a Kothrud resident.

Similar trends are observed in the Narayangaon market, a significant tomato trading hub in the state. Officials report that a 20-kg crate fetches prices ranging between Rs 400 and Rs 600.

Attributing the scarcity to November’s initial rainfall, market officials highlighted severe damage to tomato plantations.

“The heavy rainfall severely damaged the crops during the harvesting phase, resulting in reduced daily crate numbers from 6,000 to less than 4,000,” shared Sharad Gongade, the Narayangaon market secretary.

Earlier this month, McDonald’s in New Delhi made headlines on Indian social media after running out of tomatoes.

A notice posted on restaurant windows explained the unavailability, citing the challenge in sourcing tomatoes meeting their stringent quality standards.

Climate change remains a primary factor contributing to this year’s scarcity, claim climate experts. Erratic weather patterns in the first half of 2023, including prolonged heatwaves and extreme rainfall, have disrupted supply and demand across the country.

Flooding, particularly in major tomato-producing states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, has been cited as a leading cause for the price surge by the National Institute of Biotic Stresses Management, an agricultural research council.

The government’s response to the shortage includes launching a “Tomato Grand Challenge Hackathon” and directing agricultural cooperatives to procure tomatoes from high-production states for redistribution in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai, aiming to mitigate the soaring prices.

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