Kurnool: Desperate farmers forced to sell tomatoes at Rs 1 a kg

Kurnool: Distressed farmers were forced to sell tomatoes at one rupee a kilo at Pathikonda on Friday. The agriculture market yard was unwilling to lift the produce and the unauthorised market yard by private agents started buying tomatoes at a steep discount.

The price for 60 kgs hovered at around Rs 80 and Rs 150 for most of the time while the better variety fetched Rs 500, said a private buyer.

This triggered protests from farmers at Pathikonda, the second largest market for tomatoes in AP after Madanapalle.

Agricultural marketing department regional joint director, Sudhakar, who had been camping at Pathikonda market, said the farmers were persuaded to sell their produce at the market yard from 6 pm on Friday.

“We have 50 metric tonnes of tomatoes to be disposed of,” he said.

He refused to divulge at what rate the government was buying.  Regional deputy director, agricultural marketing, P. Lavanya, said the crisis at Pathikonda would be solved quickly. She said the state government was aware of it.

The tomato supply chain is skewed as the middlemen get a major share of the pie. Farmers are clueless as to whom to sell as the AP government has banned the commission agents system.

Mr P. Chennakeshav Reddy, a farmer from Pathikonda, said, “We have invested Rs 28,000 to Rs 30,000 to cultivate an acre of tomatoes but we are getting less than Rs 5,000.”

He demanded that the government intervene and give minimum support price for tomato farmers. Another farmer, Mr B. Narayana, from Aspari, said he had invested Rs 1 lakh on four acres of tomatoes.

AP state agriculture mission (AP-SAM) vice-chairman, M.V.S. Nagi Reddy, said marketing of perishable commodities like tomato was fraught with structural issues. Higher realisation of prices is possible when the cold storage capacity is made available to absorb excess production.

Referring to the issue at Pathikonda, he said that “It’s a problem of plenty. A 10 per cent rise in production would bring down the prices by 20 per cent and vice versa. This year, the farmers had a bumper crop in Pathikonda, Alur, Adoni and Dhone and Yemmiganur.”

He said Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had asked the officials to study prices in Bengaluru and Chennai and find ways to get remunerative prices to the farmers.

Mr Nagi Reddy said that at a private market yard at Rapthadu in Anantapur district commission agents were charging a 20 per cent margin unheard of in other places.

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