Addressing an election rally yesterday in Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Those growing vegetables and fruits are among our top priority. When I say TOP, I mean whichever part of the country you go, three vegetables are very much visible – Tomato, Onion and Potato That’s why I call TOP Priority. T for Tomato, O for Onion and P for potato – that makes TOP priority.”
The tomato-onion-potato growers are said to be the hardest hit in recent times as compared to farmers who cultivate wheat, rice and sugarcane – both in the situation of bumper produce as well as in the event of crop failure.
India is the consistent second largest producer of these three vegetables for years after China. The farmers, growing tomatoes, onions and potatoes are, in fact, facing problems due to overproduction leading to crop glut situation.
Reports suggest that at some places tomatoes were sold at Re 1 a kilo, onions too at Re 1 per kilo and potatoes at abysmally low 20 paise a kilo. These are the prices which are much below the production cost leaving the farmers in acute distress.
Onions have been the most volatile vegetable in the country having muscled out quite a few governments since 1970s. Combined with tomatoes and potatoes, onions become a lethal political adversary to ruling dispensation, which the BJP think tank is wary of.
In July last year, India’s onion export increased to over 56 per cent but by November the country was importing the vegetable. During April-July period last year, the average price of onions was around Rs 15 per kilo in retail and the farmers were being forced to sell their produce in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh at well below their production cost.
As against the average production cost of Rs 6 per kg, the farmers were forced to sell their onions at Rs 2 a kilo in Nashik’s Lasangaon market – the largest in Asia. The farmers demanded that the government should fix MSP for onion at Rs 10 a kilo.