Tomatoes on sale at a Ranchi market earlier this week
The bizarrely thrilling Tomatina festival of Buñol in Spain can eye a new venue — Bundu in India.
The nondescript block in Ranchi, along with its equally prolific neighbours — Tamar, Bero and Kanke — as well as Lohardaga, Hazaribagh and Godda districts, have together cultivated a bumper tomato crop this year. A rough survey of vegetable markets in the capital suggests a 20-25 per cent increase in yield and a corresponding 50 per cent price plunge.
Around 20,000 quintals of tomatoes are reaching the wholesalers in Ranchi every day for distribution in Daily Market and Kutchery and Lalpur markets, where vendors are selling tomatoes for anything between Rs 6 and Rs 10.
“I am bringing 20-30kg tomatoes from Bundu every day and selling them in the city. In the beginning of this month, the price was higher — Rs 15 per kg — but since the production is high, we have slashed rates,” said Basanti Devi, a vegetable vendor at Lalpur market.
The 38-year-old arrives at 8am and makes sure she exhausts her day’s stock by evening to rush back to Bundu for more fresh and ripe tomatoes.
“The off-season price of tomatoes is Rs 40-Rs 60 per kg, but in Bundu, farmers are growing the fruit extensively this time. So, tomatoes are cheap,” said another vendor Mahesh.
Vegetable vendors at Daily Market and Kutchery couldn’t agree more.
“Favourable climate has resulted in bumper yield in Tamar, Bundu, Bero and Kanke. We are no longer ordering in bulk from Chennai,” said Md Khalid at Daily Market. He added that on an average, they were bringing nearly two-three trucks of tomatoes from adjoining areas.
Prabhakar Singh, the director of Jharkhand Horticulture Mission, pointed out that last year, bad weather had taken a toll on almost 30 per cent of the crop. “But this year, the yield has dramatically increased. In Ranchi, some farmers are selling tomatoes at a price as low as Rs 4 per kg.”
Singh said they were also encouraging farmers to take bank loans and set up processing units for ketchup and pickles, to earn more profits. “Till date, we have not received any news of tomatoes being dumped or getting rotten. So, farmers should come forward to adopt new ventures involving the magic fruit,” he said.
In Jharkhand, the estimated cultivation area for tomato is around 7,200 hectares and production this season has been around 1.3 lakh tonnes. As many as 5000-10,000 farmers in the district alone are involved in cultivation of the fruit.
“Normally, seeds of tomatoes are sown in September and crop is ready within two months to be sold in the market to meet the additional demand. We are advising farmers to take adequate measures to store tomatoes so that they don’t dry up in this extreme weather,” Singh added.