Amid the country's burgeoning tomato price crisis, the ministry of consumer affairs has asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) and National Cooperative Consumers Federation (NCCF) to procure tomatoes from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The development comes as the retail price of tomatoes in several parts of the country has soared to ₹200 per kg owing to supply-chain constraints and heavy rainfall.

According to the ministry, the procured tomatoes will be distributed in major consumption centres where retail prices have recorded a maximum increase in the last month. "The stocks of tomato will be distributed through retail outlets at discounted prices to the consumers in Delhi-NCR (national capital region) by Friday, this week," says the ministry.

"The targeted centres for release have been identified on the basis of absolute increase in retail prices over the past month in centres where prevailing prices are above the All-India average. Key consumption centres in states having a higher concentration of the identified centres are further selected for the intervention," adds the ministry.

Southern and Western regions in India contribute 56% to 58% of the total production of tomatoes across the country. The production period for tomatoes is different across regions. While the peak harvesting season occurs from December to February, the July and August period as well as October and November period are generally the lean production months of Tomato, says the ministry.

According to the ministry, July coinciding with monsoon season, however, has added to further challenges related to distribution and increased transit losses thus leading to a price hike for tomatoes.  

"The cycle of planting and harvesting seasons and variation across regions are primarily responsible for price seasonality in Tomatoes. Apart from the normal price seasonality, temporary supply chain disruptions and crop damage due to adverse weather conditions etc. often lead to sudden spikes in prices," says the ministry.

According to the ministry, the arrival of tomato supply from Delhi-NCR are mainly from Himachal Pradesh and Kolar in Karnataka. Notably, Himachal Pradesh is currently grappling with onslaught of flesh floods, and landslides owing to monsoon season. The state has been battered with the highest rainfall in over 40 years.

"New crop arrivals are expected soon from Nashik district. Furthermore, in August, additional supply is expected to come from Narayangaon and Aurangabad belt. Madhya Pradesh arrivals are also expected to start. Prices are anticipated to cool down in the near future, accordingly," says the ministry.

Notably, amid the burgeoning price hike, several restaurants and eateries have opted out of using tomatoes in their dishes. Popular fast food outlet McDonald's has reportedly removed tomatoes from burgers and wraps across its several outlets in the country owing to supply shortages and concerns about the vegetable quality.

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