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Middlemen get lion’s share of tomato profit

ISLAMABAD – Thanks to bumper crop in Sindh, the price of tomatoes has fallen up to Rs.2 per kg – but in big cities the same vegetable is sold at an exorbitant rate of Rs60 per kg.

Sindh witnessed a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. The excess supply not only pushed down the price but shy away the buyers also.

We are sitting from last many days in the main market of Rajanpur, Punjab to sell our tomatoes but no one is even willing to buy Rs2 per kg in bulk, said Idris Kathio.

Kathio – a small farmer of Shikarpur district- who harvests tomatoes in his six acre family land – is worried. After investing around Rs 40,000 per acre in farm inputs, his crop is not even paying back half of his investment. One acre yields around 100-120 mound tomatoes.

How will his family survive till next crop is the question bothering him. The payments to sahokar and farm inputs for next crop would be tough. He may sell something, but what, he already owns a few things. Mar gaye hain, (we are dead) he cries helplessly- in his Sindhi accent -Urdu.

The wholesale markets are full of Kathios Ghagroos and other growers, who sow tomatoes twice a year with hopes of earning bread and butter for the year- and some money for the medication of the family- clothes and possible dowry for some daughter. In October last year, the same tomatoes were being sold for Rs200 per kg.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation Data, Pakistan is ranked on 34th position in annual tomato production in the world. Country’s total annual requirement is more than 890,434 tonnes, and is grown on an area of 62,930 hectare. It is basically flaw of the government; they never educate farmers to produce crops as per country’s demand, said Rao Afsar, an official of farmers association.

He demanded government to take appropriate action and help farmers in transporting the vegetable to city markets of the country.

The major hurdle for farmer in transporting the crop to city markets is transportation cost and uncertainty that whether he would be able to sell his tomatoes in big city markets or not, he said.

The government can at least allocate temporary stalls to the farmers in Islamabad or Rawalpindi and Karachi markets, he suggested.

He lamented that even if the crop fetch good price in markets, it is the profit of middleman and farmers get nothing.

The middle men, who transport vegetables between cities, held heavy bribe by police and local governments responsible for exaggerated prices.

They alleged that bribe goes from bottom to top and Islamabad Capital Authority and CDA high-ups get lions share.

The cost of transporting tomatoes from Rajanpur to Islamabad is not the issue, it is the bribe which one has to give to CDA, or Islamabad police at nakas (check posts) and Sabzi Mandi Police Station, accused Ghulam Qadir, a transporter.

Nizam Sultan another transporter said that intercity transport is only viable if you transport drugs inside the vegetable or fruit, otherwise one cannot pay the bribe of capital. We are well aware of the situation and it is true that tomatoes are being sold at Rs2 per kg, in Sindh, and it is also true that in cities they are being sold at around Rs60, but it is due to middle man, said spokesman for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

He said after the 18th Amendment the major responsibility of the federal ministry is only to monitor demand and supply situation and if it foresee shortage of any crop, advise government to import it.

He said the middle man is responsible for the disparity in the prices in different parts of the country.

It is the duty of local provincial government and local administration, In Islamabad’s case it is solely responsibility of CDA and ICT to check the rates, sorry we cannot do anything, official said.

Kamran Cheema, spokesman for the ICT did not responded to query despite repeated attempts.

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad also did not respond to repeated calls and text messages. CDA spokesman was also not available to comment.

FAO Representative in Pakistan Minà Dowlatchahi while commenting on the situation said much is required to do.

Strengthening the supply chain in Pakistan through the direct support to small farmers and investments in suitable storage and processing facilities, an expansion of the food transformation small agri-business activities, market advisory and packaging services to small holder farmers and transportation, and finally improved handling and sanitary conditions in markets will go a long way to ensure small holder farmers can better plan when to take their product to markets and obtain higher returns and a higher share of the price to market, she said.

She emphasised that better services to small holder farmer, stronger linkages between small holder farmers and markets, and modernized markets are needed to help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste before consumption. This applies to tomatoes as well as to all other fruit and vegetables, she said.


Source The Nation; Atif Khan