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Climate lessons as tomato prices soar in India

roma tomatoes stock

Tomatoes have become unaffordable for many in India, even though they are a mainstay of the nation’s superb cuisine.

Usually prices are around 40 rupees (49 cents) for a kilogram in major cities such as Mumbay and Delhi, but now they have shot up as high as 160 rupees ($1.95) and may hit 200 ($2.44)—more than the cost of a liter of gasoline. Consumers switch to tamarind and lemon as tomato prices soar (

Since a kilogram is 2.2 pounds, those prices may not seem all that intimidating, but they are when you look at incomes. A yearly middle-class income in India starts at 50,000 rupees, India: households by annual income 2021 | Statista which amounts to about $600, and 67 percent of the population live on less.

The shortage is so acute that some McDonald’s outlets in northern India have temporarily stopped including tomatoes.

“This spike has been attributed to heavy rains in tomato production areas and abnormal temperatures in June,” according to the Indian news source Newstap. The rains, along with insect and fungus damage,
have greatly reduced crops in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, states from which tomatoes are normally sourced in May and June.

Some consumers are switching to tamarinds and lemons as substitutes. (I don’t know how well these work as tomato surrogates, but then I have never eaten a tamarind—at least not on its own.)

Some government stores are selling the product at a subsidized price of 50 rupees (61 cents) per kilogram, but each customer can only buy a single kilo.

The shortage and price hike are temporary, and the situation is expected to return more or less to normal in a couple of weeks. According to the Agriculture Marketing department, Andhra Pradesh, a state bordering the Indian Ocean in the nation’s southeast, “cultivates three tomato crops a year and the short gaps between these crops sometimes leads to price fluctuations. Tomato prices in Andhra Pradesh are expected to settle down in middle of July as the crop yield has increased in several tomato producing areas in the State,” Newstap reports.

Nevertheless, disruptions of this kind are likely to continue worldwide as a result of climate upheavals. In this country, Farmers Insurance has announced that it will no longer offer coverage in Florida: it is the fourth major insurer to do so.

“The Florida exodus is the latest sign that climate change, exacerbated by the use of fossil fuels, is destabilizing the U.S. insurance market,” reports CBS News.


Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 13 books.