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Why curry’s missing tang

If the soaring price of onion has been a tearjerker for months, it is now time for your tomato love to sour.

The berry that adds a special tang to Indian curries has scurried out of the common man’s reach with its price taking a giant leap from Rs 20 to Rs 60 a kg in a week’s time.

According to horticulture scientists at ICAR, Plandu, inadequate rainfall and bacterial wilting have severely affected the crop in Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Chatra, leading to supply shortage and steep rates in a ripple effect.

This year, only five per cent of the fruit grown locally in the open field is available in the market. “Normally, the supply is around 30 per cent from open fields and the rest from cities outside the state,” said Prabhakar Singh, the director of State Horticulture Mission.

In Jharkhand, fields and 3,000 green houses grow around 250,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually. The common varieties are Swarna Lalima, Swarna Naveen, Samridhi and Swarna Sampada.

There are 50 cold stores, but only 20 are in good condition. “If we had better storage facilities, our farmers would not have incurred losses and prices would have remained stable,” Singh said, indicating that there would be no respite for at least two months.

Bikas Das, a fruit scientist at Plandu, said farmers should be encouraged to grow more varieties like the Swarna Sampada, which is bacteria resistant. “More than 12 varieties are grown in this state, but only one can resist the scourge,” he pointed out.

At Ranchi’s Main Road, Kutchery and Lalpur markets, vendors are keeping limited stock. “We bring two-three kilos of tomatoes to the market because no one is willing to buy. What is now Rs 60 a kg may go up to Rs 100 a kg soon,” warned Md Shamim, a retail vendor at Daily Market.

Another vendor at Jamshedpur’s Sakchi market, Naresh Shaw, said they were buying tomatoes at Rs 48 a kg from wholesalers and couldn’t give them away to customers at any rate cheaper than Rs 60 a kg.

Harried homemakers have already said adieu to the blushing berry. “We are using ketchup instead of raw tomatoes,” said Bariatu resident Anju Shandilya.