On 27th August, kisans in Nashik, Maharashtra dumped dozens of cartons of their tomatoes on the road and in the market yard. They were protesting the price at which they had to sell their crop.
The wholesale price of tomato in Nashik and in Toshan, Haryana has fallen steeply to Rs.50 per crate of 25 kgs or Rs.2 per kg in September 2021, from Rs.7.5/kg in August 2021 and Rs.10.5 in July 2021. The wholesale price of tomato last year in July was Rs.20.4/kg.
In Nashik, kisans are not even bringing their produce to the wholesale market because the crop price they realise are not enough to cover even transportation costs. Farmers in Haryana too said they were unable to recover costs.
The country’s horticultural crop production is set to touch the highest ever level of 33 crore tonne in the 2020-21 season, a nearly 3% rise in output, according to latest official estimates.
This should be an occasion for celebration for the whole country. On the other hand, it is a disaster for the producers – the kisans. According to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, a peasant incurs a minimum of ₹4 to grow a kg of tomato on their own land. With leased land and hired labour, the cost of growing one kg of tomato can go up to ₹8-10. So, with the price of Rs.2/kg, the peasant is staring a colossal loss of income.
Producers continue to face extreme price volatility whether it is vegetables or oilseeds or chillies or sugar. This problem is very acute in the case of perishable produce such as tomatoes that cannot be stored for long, unless the kisan has access to cold storage facilities. They are at the mercy of the traders, who buy cheap from them and sell it dear in the retailer market. As a result, the working population in the cities which buys the produce does not reap the advantage of plentiful supply. But when there a short supply in the retail market, they end up paying sky-high prices.
Without doubt, the failure of the ruling class to commit to procurement of the kisans’ crop at a guaranteed procurement price is the cause for this distress. Official spokespersons of the Ministry of Agriculture are seeking to justify what is happening by saying that the prices in one season influences the cropping pattern in the next, and the kisans should not have put so much acreage under tomatoes in 2020-21!! This only reflects the anarchy of the present system. It points to the need to organise production and set the input and output prices so that the kisans are guaranteed a human existence. This also clearly exposes the promises of doubling the kisans’ income by 2022 or any other year.
The economy is not oriented to secure the well-being of the producers. On the contrary, through the three farm laws passed by the Centre, the government is doing exactly the opposite. In the name of removing obstacles to kisans selling their produce anywhere in the country, it plans to further enable the monopoly corporations to penetrate agriculture. The very conditions that have driven lakhs of kisans to ruination and suicide is being further consolidated in the same direction.