Tomato Crisis: How it has different meanings for Pakistan and India

October 2, 2017
Muhammad Luqman

By: Muhammad Luqman

This time, it is the shortage of tomato that has brought worries to almost every household in Pakistan. The prices of the red vegetable, used in all the  food dishes especially meat curries in the South Asian country, suddenly started rising ahead of Eid-ul-Adha , the Islamic festival  and later hiked to all time high Rs 250  (US $ 2.50)  per kilogram in Lahore, Karachi , Islamabad and other urban Centre’s. Even after the lapse of four weeks, there has been little slide in the prices despite its import from Afghanistan and the arrival of new crop in South-Western province of Balochistan. According to dealers at Lahore’s vegetable market, the widening of  gap between demand and supply of the prices of the kitchen crop has mainly been due to poor harvest in the Sindh province and decision of not importing tomatoes from neighboring India.“ We have different time windows for tomato crop in different provinces of Pakistan; the poor crop has aggravated the situation,” says Haji Muhammad Bilal, secretary general of Lahore vegetable dealers Association.

In Pakistan, tomato prices have always behaved in yo-yo fashion, sometimes touching the bottom level of Rs 20 per kilogram and later going to Rs 100 and even beyond. But these never surged to Rs 200 and beyond in the past due to import of the vegetable from India through Wagha route.  But due to strained relations between the South Asian neighbors over the last one year, Pakistan has not made any import of Tomato through Wagha. This resulted in the hike of onion prices in August and those of tomatoes in September. “ We used to have 50 to 70 trucks laden with tomatoes or onions crossing on to Pakistan every day in the past; It helped keep the prices at around Rs 50 to 60 even during the months of August and September,”  says Chaudhary Ejaz Ahmad, President of Lahore Vegetable Market  traders Association.

But the recent statement by Pakistan’s Minister for Agriculture Sikandar Hayat Bosan regarding not importing tomato from India, has lent bullish sentiments to Pakistani vegetable market. Now, all the hopes are hinging on import from some other countries and arrival of tomatoes in good quantity from Balochistan.

Pakistan’s decision of not importing Indian tomatoes has resulted in depressing the prices in the Indian markets. According to Indian media reports, tomato prices have plunged to Rs 7 per kg (Rs 13 Pakistani rupees) in wholesale markets

In India, the prices of the tomatoes had soared to Rs 70 to Rs 80 (Pakistani Rs 120 to 135) in June and July. But these have nose-dived after the arrival of bumper crop from different Indian states. But Pakistan’s decision of not importing has scuttled the chances for Indian farmers to get good return of the commodity.

Pakistani vegetable dealers believe that prices of tomato can come down to Rs 30 to 40 per kilograms only after the import of the commodity from India. But in the present circumstances, it does not seem feasible.