Centre to sell tomatoes at discounted rates in Delhi, other cities

New Delhi:  In a first, the Centre will start selling tomatoes at discounted rates in retail markets in the national capital and few other cities from Friday to provide relief to the consumers as the price of the kitchen staple is ruling high at over Rs 200 per kilogram in some parts of the country.

Announcing the decision, the Consumer Affairs Ministry on Wednesday said the sale of tomatoes will be undertaken by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and National Cooperative Consumers Federation (NCCF).

Tomatoes will be sold at discounted rates in Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region), Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. It will be available in cities, including Patna, Varanasi, Kanpur and Kolkata, Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh told PTI.

“Tomatoes will be sold at a considerably lesser rate than the prevailing price in that area. It will be at least 30 per cent lower than the prevailing market rate on that given day. The idea is to give relief to consumers,” he said.

Both NAFED and NCCF will procure the perishable commodity from key producing centres of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and sell it in major consumption centres, where retail prices have recorded maximum increase in the last one month, the ministry said in a statement.

Singh said, “it will be for the first time, we are going to procure and sell tomatoes in retail markets. We have done that for onion. It is going to be a challenging task as tomato is a highly perishable commodity.”

In Delhi-NCR, NCCF will sell tomatoes through its own outlets, mobile vans, Mother Dairy’s Safal and Kendriya Bhandar outlets.

In other cities, both NAFED and NCCF will sell the kitchen staple at discounted rates through their own outlets or will have local tie up for the same, Singh said.

According to him, the sale of tomatoes at discounted rates will continue till prices cool down, which is likely in the beginning of August.

The ministry said the centres for release of tomatoes have been identified on the basis of absolute increase in retail prices over the past one month where the prevailing prices are above the all-India average.

Key consumption centres in states having higher concentration of the identified centres will be further selected for the intervention, it said.

As per the ministry’s data, average all-India retail price of tomato was Rs 111.71 per kg on Wednesday.

The maximum increase in retail price was Rs 203 per kg in Bathinda, Punjab while the minimum rate was Rs 34 per kg in Bidar in Karnataka.

Among the metros, retail price of tomato quoted highest in Delhi at Rs 150 per kg, followed by Mumbai at Rs 137 per kg, Kolkata at Rs 137 per kg and Chennai at Rs 123 per kg on Wednesday.

Other cities where prices are ruling high are Bengaluru (Rs 95-118/kg), Gurgaon and Patna (Rs 140/kg), Jammu (Rs 147/kg), Kanpur (Rs 120/kg), and Varanasi (Rs 120/kg)

Tomato prices normally come under pressure during July-August and October-November period, which are generally the lean production months. Supply disruption caused due to monsoon has led to further spike in the rates.

“July coinciding with the monsoon season, adds to challenges related to distribution and increased transit losses adding to price rise,” the ministry said.

Currently, the supplies coming to markets in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and some other states are mostly from Maharashtra, especially Satara, Narayangaon, and Nashik, which is expected to last till this month-end, it said.

Madanapalle (Chittoor) in Andhra Pradesh also has arrivals in reasonable quantities. The arrivals in Delhi-NCR are mainly from Himachal Pradesh and some quantity comes from Kolar in Karnataka, it added.

The ministry said the new crop arrivals are expected soon from the Nashik district.

In August, additional supply is expected to come from the Narayangaon and Aurangabad belt. Arrivals from Madhya Pradesh are also expected to start.

“Prices are anticipated to cool down in the near future, accordingly,” the ministry said.

Tomato is produced almost in all the states in varying quantities. Maximum production is in Southern and Western regions of India, contributing 56-58 per cent of all-India production.

Southern and Western regions being surplus states, feed to other markets depending on production seasons. The peak harvesting season occurs from December to February.

The cycle of planting and harvesting seasons and variation across regions are primarily responsible for price seasonality in tomatoes, the ministry said.

Apart from the normal price seasonality, the ministry said temporary supply chain disruptions and crop damage due to adverse weather conditions often lead to sudden spikes in prices.