A LONG drought and early monsoon have wreaked havoc with harvest cycles in India, leading to a scarcity of tomatoes and a steep increase in costs seriously impacting farmers and families.
Asia’s largest tomato market in Pimpalgaon, to the west of the subcontinent, has been eerily empty as average costs have doubled across the country in just two months.
Lentils are also taking a battering as desperate restaurants turn to ketchup and other processed sauces to maintain menus largely dependent on tomatoes as a base ingredient.
Ruinous droughts in the west and apocalyptic rains in the south have shattered production in a dramatic year for Indian agriculture, which saw farmers in the south-west protesting low prices in January after a bumper harvest and refusing to pick tomatoes in order to raise values.
An emergency taskforce in West Bengal has been set up to help tackle the crisis, with politicians likely recalling 1998 elections in Delhi were profoundly influenced by high onion prices.
Agriculture is immensely important to the Indian economy, and indeed the fabric of a society largely at the mercy of extreme climate and weather patterns.
Roughly 68 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion people derive their income from farming, contributing about 15 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Drought in 2016 is thought to have directly affected more than 300 million people, generating a vast deluge of climate refugees abandoning the countryside for already alarmingly populated cities.
The news comes just weeks after a moth outbreak described as ‘Tomato Ebola’ destroyed over 80 per cent of tomato farms in a northern Nigerian state.
As prices of the country’s most dependable crop skyrocketed, plunging rural Nigerians even further into poverty, many took to social media to denounce Spain and its orgiastic tomato splattering fiestas.