The luscious tomato you use in almost every dish passes through three hands after leaving the farm, but the price jumps 3-4 times when it reaches you. The biggest loser is the end-consumer, and the farmer is not the biggest beneficiary. A supply chain analysis shows middlemen and traders at every stage walk away with the lion’s share.
On Monday, Chennaiites paid Rs 40 for a drumstick whose farmgate price was not even 30% of it. A month ago, tomatoes that cost Rs 40 a kg in Krishnagiri were retailing for up to Rs 160 a kg in Chennai, citing short supply.
On Monday, while the farm price of first-quality tomato was just Rs 36 a kg in Krishnagiri, it was Rs 45 a kg at Koyambedu Wholesale Market, Rs 60 a kg in neighbourhood shops and retailers and Rs 85 a kg online.
The striped variety of brinjal bought for Rs 25 a kg in Tiruvallur farms costs Rs 50 a kg at Koyambedu and Rs 80- Rs 120 a kg across Chennai. Coconuts costing Rs 15 a kg in Tirunelveli sell for Rs 40 – Rs 50 in Chennai and Tambaram.
Krishnagiri farmer T Madhe Gowdu says Rs 40 was the highest they received even when tomato prices were around ₹160 a kg last month. “Everyone benefits during price spike, but only farmers suffer when prices crash. But, whether it’s loss or gain, middlemen take their commission. Theirs is a no-loss venture.”
The government has little role in what is grown, how it is priced and how both producers and end-users suffer. Lack of regulatory mechanism is a lacuna that needs to be corrected.
S Chandran, secretary of Federation of Wholesale Vegetable Market Associations, says prices are determined on a daily basis and fluctuate vastly even within a week. Farmers are paid upfront and need to bear and damage during transit.
An official with an online grocery store in Chennai said they could offer top quality tomato for Rs 50 a kg if sourced from farms.
“We have to price it at Rs 70 because we buy it from Koyambedu.”
Sathyapriya of Mannivakkam said the price hike was forcing families to cut down on the number of vegetables on the platter.
R Kottaichamy, former vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Banana Growers Federation, said the minimum support price for fruits and vegetables must be fixed such that farmers are shielded from losses.