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Nepal exports 670 tons of tomatoes to India

Nepal exports 670 tons of tomatoes to India

With India reeling under tomato shortage, the export of Nepali tomatoes to the southern neighbor has surged dramatically in the past one month. Nepal has exported 670 tons of tomatoes to India in Shrawan (mid-July to mid-August).

The preliminary data of the Department of Customs shows tomatoes worth Rs 8.7m were exported from Nepal to India. According to traders, the shortage of tomatoes in the Indian market has increased demand for Nepali tomatoes, resulting in a sharp rise in exports. The demand for Nepali tomatoes has increased especially from border Indian cities.

The Customs Department officials said major customs offices saw a huge shipment of tomatoes from Nepal to India in the past one month, especially through Birgunj, Bhairahawa, and Kakarbhitta customs. According to Shovakant Poudel, Director General at the Customs Department, tomatoes were exported to India in high volume in the last one month. According to traders, 15-20 tons are being exported to India from Birgunj, the main custom point of the country.

Due to substantial exports of tomatoes by Nepali traders to India, the domestic markets are grappling with supply limitations, leading to significant price surges. The wholesale price of large tomatoes rose steeply by a staggering 385 percent, from Rs 35 per kg to an astonishing Rs 170 per kg.

With traders preferring exports to India, the supply of tomatoes to Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market has declined by 50 percent. “The supply of tomatoes has fallen to 35 tons per day from earlier 65 tons,” said Binay Shrestha, information officer at the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market Development Board. According to Shrestha, the local market in Kathmandu is currently getting tomatoes from three neighboring districts—Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur.

The tomato exports to India surged in the last two months as the southern neighbor experienced a shortage of tomatoes. While Nepal has been requesting India to facilitate the imports of vegetables including tomatoes, the southern neighbor has restricted the tomato imports.

However, faced with a shortage and steep price rise, India in the first week of August lifted import restrictions on tomatoes. The relaxation of quarantine rules for Nepali tomatoes will last till October 31, according to officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.

Tomato production decreased in India, especially in the top 10 tomato-producing states - Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Bihar, leading to a steep price rise.

Given the Indian restriction, tomatoes have never been among Nepal’s significant export items to India, despite the country’s export of various agricultural products like tea, cardamom, cabbage, and ginger. In the fiscal year 2022/23, the top three export commodities to India were refined palm oil, soybean oil, and cardamom.

However, tomato exports to India did surge in the last fiscal year to 1094 tons compared to 40 kg in 2021/22.  Interestingly, these 1094 tons of exports happened in Ashar (mid-June to mid-July), which is the last month of the Nepali fiscal year.

Nepali farmers grow tomatoes on 22,600 hectares and produce more than 432,000 tons annually, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, Nepali farmers cultivate tomatoes across an area of over 22,000 hectares and produce over 400,000 tons annually. In 2021/22, Nepal produced 422,703 tons of tomatoes on 22,911 hectares.

However, Nepal still imports a huge quantity of tomatoes from India every year. The latest data from Customs Department shows the country imported 42,105.60 tons of tomatoes totaling Rs 610.86m in 2022/23.