… Local tomatoes have yet to hit the market

Khandu Om | Intern

While the age-old question of, whether tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, lingers, what is sure is tomatoes have become dearer with a kilogram costing Nu 150 in the capital.

The price rise is attributed to a shortage in the supply from India, which itself was affected by poor production this year. Within three weeks, the price has increased from Nu 40 a kg to Nu 80 and as of yesterday, Nu 150 in almost all vegetable shops.

While local chillies hit the market weeks ago, tomatoes have not. There are some from Tsirang, but local tomatoes are selling at the same price given the shortage. Farmers in Punakha said that the excessive heat and shortage of water this year discouraged farmers from growing tomatoes.

“Local tomatoes from Punakha would have hit the market by this time,” said farmer Kinley of Lobesa. “We didn’t plant this year because of the heat and also because it didn’t fetch a good price last year,” he said. He sold for a maximum of Nu 50 a kg last summer.

According to reports in the Indian media, the country has been gripped by a nationwide shortage of tomatoes attributed to irregular weather, and unseasonable high rainfall in recent months. The fast food chain McDonald’s in India had put up signs stating that tomatoes would no longer be put in burgers and other dishes, due to lack of availability.

Vegetable vendors too are surprised by the price. A woman who had been selling vegetables for 11 years said this is the first time she is selling tomatoes at this price.

A vendor at the Hongkong market, Chenga Lham, said that some customers were asking her if the price rise was because of the civil servant pay raise.

Imported tomatoes are supplied to vendors at Nu 115-130 in Thimphu. “We have to keep the margin as we lose about four to five kgs in damages in the heat,” said a vendor. There are only two vendors at the Kaja Throm that sell local organic tomatoes brought from Tsirang. The vendor said she bought the local tomatoes for Nu 160 from suppliers.

The rise in the prices of tomatoes has impacted other businesses.

The owner of Cloud Kitchen said the impact of the price rise is more on service providers than customers because they have to sell their products such as pizzas at the same rate. “Our profit margins are affected.”

Some are resorting to tomato sauce with fresh tomato toppings to cut down on tomatoes.

A pizza shop in Babesa said she had not increased the price of pizza although she buys about 10 to 15 kgs of tomatoes a week.