The soaring prices of tomatoes across the country continue to burn a hole in the common man's pocket. The sky-high prices of the kitchen staple have disrupted monthly budget of the populace, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted livelihoods of many.
The retail price of tomato has surged to Rs 70-80 per kg in almost all big cities.
The staple's price in Delhi has touched Rs 70 per kg owing to tight supply of the staple during the lean period, according to a trade report. Rates of tomatoes started to jack up from June 1, and have since been on an upward spiral, going up by Rs 10 per kg on a weekly basis.
The price rise of the staple has not only been seen in unorganised retail markets in the national capital, but also across other outlets such as Safal, the retail vegetable chain of Mother Dairy, and e-tailers such as Grofers and BigBasket.
Where BigBasket is selling tomatoes, on Thursday, in the range of Rs 60-66 per kg, Grofers is retailing the same at Rs 53-55 per kg.
Meanwhile, unorganised markets, such as the street vendors are selling the staple for around Rs 70 per kg contingent up on its quality and locality. Some are even selling it at Rs 80 per kg.
According to traders, the prices are ruling high even in wholesale mandis, where arrivals have not been robust in the last few weeks from the producing states.
They also mentioned that the rise in COVID-19 cases in producing states of Southern India has restricted harvesting of the crop in some pockets.
Union Consumer Affairs Ministry data shows a sharp increase in prices of tomatoes not only in Delhi but also in neighbouring states.
As of July 15, 2020, the prices of the staple, as on the ministry's website, in Delhi stand at Rs 61 per kg, Mumbai (Rs 57 per kg), Nashik (Rs 45 per kg), Patna (Rs 60 per kg), Agra (Rs 70 per kg), Gorakhpur (Rs 80 per kg), Balasore (Rs 80 per kg), Lucknow (Rs 60 per kg), Srinagar (Rs 65 per kg).
At some places in Mumbai, the price of tomatoes has shot up to Rs 70 per kg. Prices in Nashik too, where the staple is produced, have gone up to Rs 35-45 per kg from around Rs 20 last week. The current prices of the staple range between Rs 60-70 per kg, on an average, across cities.
Last week, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the price volatility in tomatoes was due to lean season and the commodity being highly perishable.
Experts also concur that prices of tomatoes normally shoot up during the lean period and the last five years' data shows the same trend. However, according to vegetable retailers and traders, the rise in the staple's prices is attributable to a lot of factors such as coronavirus-induced lockdown during which the movement of goods was either being stopped or reduced.
Other reasons include heavy rains caused by cyclones in key states such as Maharashtra, which destroyed crops, consequent short supplies to mandis across states, and increase in petrol and diesel rates.
Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are the states with deficit tomato production in the country.
They depend on surplus producing states for supplies. India produces about 19.73 million tonnes of tomatoes annually, while the consumption is about 11.51 million tonnes, as per the official data.