India is currently grappling with a tomato crisis as prices have skyrocketed by more than 300 per cent due to extreme weather conditions, leading to theft and turmoil across the country.
Data from the Department of Consumer Affairs reveals that tomato prices have surged by a staggering 341 per cent year-to-date, soaring from 24.68 rupees per kilogram to 108.92 rupees per kilogram as of July 11.
The surge in prices can be attributed to the severe flooding in major tomato-producing states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, according to India's National Institute of Biotic Stresses Management, a council dedicated to agricultural research.
"Due to excess rainfall in these states, tomato crops have been highly affected... A large part of the tomato crop has been destroyed due to rains and floods," stated the council.
Tomatoes, along with onions, are considered an absolute essential in the daily lives of Indian consumers. They are a key ingredient in popular Indian dishes such as masala, which relies on tomatoes for its base sauce, and the beloved Andhra Tomato Kura (tomato curry), widely enjoyed by locals.
The tomato crisis has also resulted in large-scale thefts of tomato crops, with reports emerging of thieves making off with boxes weighing up to 150 kilograms.
To address the challenges and explore innovative solutions to improve India's tomato value chain and lower prices, the government has invited the public to participate in the Tomato Grand Challenge Hackathon.
Historically, tomato prices tend to surge during the growing season in June and July, before stabilizing with the onset of the harvest period in August.
Comparing to July of the previous year, tomato prices have witnessed a sharp surge of 166% according to government data. This surge in food prices is expected to contribute to a year-on-year rise of 4.58 per cent in India's inflation rate for June.
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