Summer tomato growers in the district are incurring heavy loss as prices of the vegetable have fallen alarmingly at the local wholesale markets.
Growers and traders at the wholesale markets said ample production, absence of storage facilities and traffic congestion on the highways are among the reasons for the low prices.
District Department of Agriculture Extension Deputy Director Touhidul Iqbal said summer tomato was cultivated on 2,550 hectares of land with a target of 55,000 tonnes production this year. Almost half of the crop has been harvested, he added.
Harvesting started in early April and will continue till mid-May, farmers said.
Wholesale trading of tomato has started at Gabura, Panchbari, Janatamor and Kawgaon villages in Sadar upazila. Traders from different districts, including Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet and Barishal regions, come to the wholesale markets to buy the vegetable. Trading starts early in the morning every day and continues till noon, traders said.
Tomato was trading between Tk 180 to Tk 200 per maund (one maund = 40kg) at the markets on April 23, depending on the size and quality. Growers said they had expected the price to be around Tk 480 a maund.
Md Al Amin of Gabura village in Sadar upazila, said he cultivated summer tomato on two bighas of land, spending Tk 70,000, this year and got around 520 maunds. He got Tk 1.04 lakh by selling it at Tk 4 per kg. “I have hardly any profit considering the harvesting and transportation cost,” he added.
This is the story of most of the growers in the district.
Matiar Rahman of Chuniapara in Sadar upazila said he left his tomatoes on the field to avoid farther loss due to the price fall in the markets.
“Building a storage facility here would be helpful to the farmers as they can store their tomatoes there if there is price fall in the markets,” he said.
The tomato growers in the district have long been demanding that the government set up a cold storage plant, said farmers' leader Azizul Islam. They also urged the government to monitor the markets.
This correspondent on April 23 found that the farmers have left their unsold tomatoes at the markets to avoid farther loss. “What will we do by taking back this highly perishable vegetable home? Besides, we will need to spend more money to transport them back home,” said Md Mominul Islam of Janatamor market in Sadar upazila.
Dinajpur Krishak Samiti President Badiuzzaman Badal urged the government to build a storage facility in Dinajpur so that the farmers can store their tomatoes there. “It will help the growers,” he added.