Tomato farmers seek minimum support price

- SUMAN BASHYAL, Kathmandu
Tomato farmers seek minimum support price

Jul 16, 2014-

A farmers’ group handed over a memorandum to the government on Wednesday demanding that it fix minimum support prices for tomatoes and ensure alternative markets for their produce as prices had dropped sharply.

Tomato prices plunged to Rs 18 per kg in the Kalimati wholesale market on Wednesday. The vegetable cost Rs 40 per kg during the same period last year.

Farmers have launched an agitation claiming that the prices they were getting were lower than their production cost. On Monday, they dumped seven truckloads of tomatoes on the street in front of the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market to vent their anger.

The farmers, who are associated with the Nepal Tunnel Farmers Committee, have demanded collateral-free soft loans and relief to farmers cultivating tomatoes by using tunnel technology. They have also asked that tomatoes grown on farms overusing pesticides be destroyed.

The government has announced through the budget that youths engaged in commercial agriculture will be provided loans at an interest rate of not more than 6 percent in a bid to attract young people to farming.

Tunnel farmers warned that they would stop supplying agricultural products in partnership with other farmers from across the country if their demands were not addressed within 72 hours. “We have been forced to go for agitation as the prices we are receiving are too low,” said Khoj Raj Katuwal, president of the committee.

“We are receiving just Rs 10-12 per kg while our cost of production is over Rs 25 per kg. When tomato prices are as high as IRs 40 per kg in India, farmers here are suffering from low prices. That’s why they have also demanded that the government take appropriate measures to enable exports of tomatoes to India.”

According to farmers, there are quarantine problems when export tomatoes to India.

“Farmers need additional markets due to over-production of tomatoes, and that may be India,” said Badrilal Shrestha, a tomato grower. “Prices have come down massively which is unbearable to farmers.”

Meanwhile, traders said that as an increasing number of people have started commercial farming with tunnel technology in many areas of the Kathmandu valley like Thankot, Balambu, Mulpani, Jitpurphedi, Kirtipur and Godavari, the supply of tomatoes has exceeded demand in the Kathmandu valley. Ujjwal Karki, president of the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Wholesalers’ Association, said that the market had been flooded with tomatoes from many areas leading to a decrease in prices. He estimates that around 20 truckloads of tomato have been arriving daily at the Kalimati wholesale market.

However, the drop in prices has not benefited customers as they still have to pay Rs 30- 35 per kg in the retail market.

“Tomatoes are selling for around 40 per kg in India due to low production in many areas of the country, so Nepali tomatoes can be shipped there,” said Bharat Khatiwada, a tomato trader at Kalimati market. “However, farmers have been facing difficulties due to Indian quarantine rules.”

Although tomato prices have taken a dive, other vegetables have become dearer. “As many farmers were totally focused on tomato cultivation at the cost of other vegetables, their prices started rise due to low production,” said Karki of the association.

Prices of vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, green pea, French bean, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, pointed gourd, mustard leaf and eggplant have jumped more than 50 percent due to reduced supplies. Traders said that tomato prices were unlikely to rally due to over-production in other areas of the country too. “Besides the Kathmandu valley, farmers in Dhading, Kavre and Sarlahi are also in search of markets for their produce,” said Khatiwada.

Farmers’ demands

- Fix minimum support price for tomatoes

- Ensure easy export of all farm products

- Provide subsidy on agricultural inputs

- Provide collateral-free and soft loans to commercial farmers

- Destroy tomatoes grown on farms overusing pesticides

- Provide relief to farmers using tunnel technology

Published: 17-07-2014 09:12

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