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Why tomatoes have turned more costlier than apples in Himachal’s Solan market

Photo for representation

Solan: Just a month before delicious red apples get ready to hit the markets, it’s all tomato boom in Himachal Pradesh. For the first time in the state’s history of growing cash crops and off-season vegetables, tomatoes are selling at an all-time high at Himachal Pradesh’s wholesale market in Solan.

Solan, a mid-hill district in the state, is known for supplying quality tomatoes to major markets in north India and big states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

On Friday, the tomatoes were sold at Rs 1800 to 2300 per crate, which weighs between 22 to 24 kg.

In the beginning of the season last month the produce was sold at Rs 800 to Rs 900 per crate but by the end of June 2023, the wholesale rates took an unprecedented jump.

Last year, tomatoes were sold in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 1700 per crate at Solan.The farmers suffered huge losses but this time, the fortunes have really changed for the growers who are finding themselves in all smiles even as the consumers are buying tomatoes at retail markets are Rs 95 to Rs 100 per kg.

“Failure of crops due to rains in Bengaluru and other major markets pushed up demand at Himachal mandis. It’s purely an issue of demand and supply. The mandi at Solan is getting a very high demand from the adjoining states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Delhi. The arrivals are low. Due to this the farmers are getting good rates” says Rakesh Kanwar, Secretary (Agriculture) in Himachal Pradesh government.

He, however, said that once the tomato growing states start sending the produce to the markets in the next few days, the prices may drop .

“The biggest demand is for Him Sona A grade tomatoes which are cultivated only in Solan, Sirmaur, Hamirpur and Shimla. This variety has a good shelf life and corporate sector buyers ask for only this variety” says Pritam, a wholesale merchant at Solan.

Nearly 5000 crates of tomatoes have arrived at Solan market. There are chances of about 7000 to 8000 crates coming to the Solan market till August-end.

Says Ravindra Sharma, secretary of Market Committee Solan, “the rates are increasing because tomato season is over in Punjab and Haryana. Because of the market crash during the past two years, only fewer farmers had cultivated the tomatoes this time as many shifted to other crops including garlic”.

Solan is a popular hub of tomato cultivation as it accounts for 60% of the tomatoes in the state. The business is worth Rs 50 crore as per data available with the agriculture department on the basis of 2020-2021 estimations. There is around over 5,185 hectares of area under tomato farming in Solan district.

Meanwhile, to address the concerns of consumers in the country,  the  Consumer Affairs Ministry Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said the prices of the commodity are likely to normalise within a fortnight once more arrivals from Sirmaur and Solan (Himachal Pradesh) start arriving.

“By August, prices of tomatoes are expected to fully stabilise. Around this time of the year, prices of tomatoes always go up. But, due to poor weather conditions and supply issues, the prices have spiralled. Heavy rains in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have affected the tomato crop, Singh said.

According to official figures of the Consumer Affairs Department, retail prices of tomatoes hovered around Rs 60 to 70 per kg in Delhi, whereas in states like Uttar Pradesh, they have touched Rs 120 per kg.