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Price instability, climate change puts tomato growers in red

October 19, 2021

HYDERABAD: Persistent price uncertainty associated with perishable tomato crop is disenchanting the coastal farmers already affected by uncertain weather conditions.

The recent volatility in the fresh vegetable prices seems heart rending for the coastal farmers producing a variety of vegetables as price instability and changes in climate have left them in a delicate situation.

Cultivation of the tomato crop has become difficult for farmers like Hussain Jayaro who seems to be in a helpless situation. He said he was being paid merely Rs400 for a 15kg to 20kg bag, while the retail price of tomatoes ranged between Rs80/kg and Rs100/kg.

Tomato consumers are forced to pay high prices due to demand and supply imbalances, while farmers suffer when imports are allowed to stabilise market prices.

“I invested Rs150,000/acre on the tomato crop but, I’m unable to get an adequate price toeven recover the cultivation cost,” Jayaro said voicing his plight.

Some farmers were seen crying out against low yield due to unprecedented rain showers in the coastal region. The heat wave following rain showers in September damaged the tomato crop when it was flowering.

The plants look healthy but, without flowers and fruits, the yields were low, which caused disappointment among producers like Rasool Bux Janyaro, whose tomato and green chilli crop was affected by the heat wave together with water scarcity.

Farmers had transplanted tomato seedling in the first week of July this year. However, heat wave just after the rain showers affected the tomato and green chilli crop. Some farmers said persistent water scarcity, sea intrusion and climate variations were seriously detrimental for this sensitive crop.

About the increasing cost, the farmers said they had purchased fertiliser at Rs2,000/bag last year, which cost up to Rs4,000 this year, making it difficult for them to bear the cost of input to save the crops, which do not have value in the same market.

The situation was similar in other coastal regions like Jati and Sujawal district, where farmers were experiencing low productivity and receiving low prices for tomato and chilli.

“Some disappointed farmers have destroyed tomato fields, pleading they might not recover the cultivation cost due to the recent marketing issue,” Noor Thahimor, a local activist said.

The volatile prices of vegetables have disappointed the coastal farmers, who always pay a huge price due to the negligence of the government that has never paid heed to the farmers against price issue, she added.

Recalling the past, the coastal farmers said they had easy access to the vegetable wholesale market in Karachi, where they would usually supply food products like vegetables earlier and get reasonable prices. However, in recent years, price instability, water scarcity, uncertain weather, and crop diseases had become a nightmare for them.

Some reports claimed that environment in the coastal area was favourable only for the local vegetable seed varieties, which might survive and remain safe from these weather challenges. In comparison, hybrid seeds carry diseases, causing problems for the farmers.

The irony is that only a few farmers preserve traditional seeds for cultivation and to continue old practices. Otherwise, a majority of farmers have adapted to hybrid varieties, which neither survive in rains, heat and cold nor get reasonable prices. Reportedly, a large number of farmers have already lost their precious agriculture lands due to increasing sea intrusion.

The farmers, as always, demand the government authorities to adapt price control mechanism to save agriculture, mainly food producing farmers, who face problems due to exploitation in the markets. Research is needed to come up with those seeds that have better shelf life and can produce quality paste through processing, they said.