New Delhi: Powering the surge in prices of daily food items across the country is the humble tomato whose price has shot up by as much as five times in the past few weeks.
- No clear explanation for why prices have gone up
- Common reasoning is drought, unseasonal rains damaged crops
- NDTV investigation finds supply is actually up compared to last year
In Hyderabad, the vegetable, a staple in most Indian diets, even hit record prices of Rs 100 kg.
But there is still no clear explanation for why prices have gone up; the common reasoning is that drought and unseasonal rains have damaged crops and reduced supply, leading prices to skyrocket.
But when NDTV closely scrutinised the agriculture ministry's data for tomato production, it was found that supply had actually gone up compared to last year.
We looked at the quantity of vegetables arriving at mandis (agricultural markets) in India's biggest tomato-producing states through the month of May when prices began to surge, and found an increase of almost two to four times compared to last year.
Mandis in Andhra Pradesh - India's leading tomato producer - saw arrivals of 20,400 tonnes in May this year, up from 14,000 tonnes last year for the same month.
Similarly, tomato arrivals in Telangana's agricultural markets rose to 11,800 tonnes in May 2016 from 4,900 tonnes in the corresponding period last year.
Maharashtra saw a dramatic rise from 34,000 tonnes of tomatoes in May 2015 to 1.26 lakh tonnes in the same month this year.
The only major tomato-producing state where production has dropped is Karnataka - from 22,500 tonnes in May 2015 to 15,600 tonnes for the same month this year.
But the drop is not dramatic enough to explain soaring prices in key cities connected to these tomato-producing states.
According to data from the Consumer Affairs Ministry, tomato prices in Hyderabad rose from Rs 28 per kg in June 2015 to Rs 56 per kg in June 2016.
For the same months, in Mumbai, the prices increased from Rs 22 per kg last year to Rs 48 per kg this year.
In Chennai, prices went up from Rs 25 per kg last year to Rs 62 per kg this year for the same time period and in Bengaluru, rates went up from Rs 22 per kg to Rs 57 per kg for the month of June in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
What is even more baffling is that the government has projected an annual increase in tomato production from 16 million tonnes last year to over 18 million tonnes this year, suggesting that farmers, despite bad weather, have managed to ramp up capacity.
Which then raises the question - what fuelled the dramatic rise in tomato prices?