A farmer is seen here sorting her tomatoes in Longkhum. (Morung file photo)
Mokokchung | June 22
Locally popular rural tourist destination in Mokokchung, Longkhum village, is not only famous for its natural rock formations, rhododendrons and cherry blossom trees but also its tomatoes. The village first began commercial cultivation of tomatoes in the year 2003 and the villagers have been engaged in producing the vegetable fruit since then.
The Morung Express in 2008 carried an extensive report on the production of tomatoes by Longkhum farmers and divulged all the problems faced by the farmers then. Ten years later, the problems faced by the Longkhum tomato farmers remain unresolved and their questions unanswered. As was ten years ago, the problems faced by the farmers remain the same – lack of market linkage, lack of post-harvest management system, lack of value-addition avenues and lack of an organized marketing network.
According to Akaba, a progressive tomato farmer and a former student leader of Longkhum village, the harvest season has already begun but the farmers are facing the problem of insurmountable competition from ‘imported’ tomatoes in the market in terms of price. The problem was the same in 2007 when the retail price of tomatoes that year was Rs.15 per kg. As per the latest notice issued by MMC on June 21, the retail price of tomatoes in Mokokchung is marked at Rs.40 per kg which superseded its previous notice issued on June 14 marked the price at Rs.50 per kg.
However, despite the MMC setting the price of tomatoes at Rs.40 per kg., the vegetable sellers are selling the tomatoes at Rs.30 per kilo. This, according to a vegetable seller, is because it is now peak season for tomatoes and they would rather have disposed the highly perishable vegetable at a lesser price than incur losses.
Vegetable business is dominated by migrant businessmen in Mokokchung with whom the local farmers apparently have a disconnect. To bridge this disconnect, the Mokokchung Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) has in the past intervened by meeting both the producers and the sellers. This year, the farmers are yet to approach the MCCI.
However, MCCI president Tsukti Longkumer said that they are willing to render all possible assistance should their help be needed and that it would be a great loss to have the locally produced tomatoes go wasted. “Networking with relevant agencies to find a solution to this problem is not beyond our reach,” he said, while adding that it is understandable that the price of tomatoes mass produced by mechanized farming in other states is always competitive and often beyond the reach of local farmers in the hills of Nagaland.
Mokokchung does not have a cold storage facility or any other post-harvest management mechanism in place for vegetables, and the highly perishable tomatoes have a shelf life of not more than 2 weeks.
According to the farmers, harvest season for tomatoes starts mid-June and runs till late August. Longkhum is expected to produce about 60 metric tonnes of tomatoes this year. Mokokchung does not have the market to absorb the tomatoes harvested during the peak season. Coupled with that is the competition posed by tomato farmers from other states.