It is a crime when producers have to destroy their harvest because they cannot get the prices to cover their investment. This is what tomato producers in Maharashtra are facing today.
In the wholesale markets in Pimpalgaon, Nashik and Lasalgaon, tomato prices have plunged from Rs.2000-3200 per crate (20 kg) in July to Rs.90 per crate in September. Lakhs of tomato farmers across several district of the state are left with no choice but to run their tractors over their fields or to abandon their plantations in the face of such a drastic decline of the wholesale prices.
According to the farmers, a farmer spends at least Rs.1 lakh per acre for saplings, fertiliser and hired labour to grow tomatoes. He needs another Rs.10,000-Rs.12000 to transport the crop to the nearest mandi. In September, the price he could have obtained for his produce in any of the wholesale markets in Maharashtra was not more than Rs.70,000-Rs.80,000. It is not surprising then that farmers destroyed their own produce rather than incurring the expense of taking the crop to the market and incurring further expenses at the mandi.
It is reported that a group of farmers from across the state met in the last week of September to plan a protest in Mumbai, demanding that an MSP be fixed for tomato. This has been a long-standing demand across all crops that has been ignored. The Ministry of Agriculture, under successive governments, has talked ad nauseum about cold storage for vegetables and fruits. Why is it that the tomato farmers have not been provided with this much needed infrastructure?
It is nothing but criminal neglect of the livelihood and wellbeing of millions of farmers in the country. The existing capitalist system serves the interests of agri-business, big wholesale traders and trading companies, and capitalists manufacturing seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and other inputs for agriculture. Agriculture is oriented to ensure their profits, while the toiling farmers and agricultural labourers are fighting for survival and the produce of their labour is wantonly destroyed while millions of working people go without food.