Shimla, July 20: Tomato, capsicum, cucumber and cabbage growers in Himachal Pradesh, a prominent veggie bowl of the country, are getting record prices in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi where rainfall remains largely weak, affecting the crop, experts say.
They say the north Indian states, which are yet to receive adequate rains for vegetables to grow in plenty, are currently depending largely on the hill state, pushing the prices of veggies further.
He said a majority of tomato, capsicum, cucumber, French bean, cabbage, coriander and bottle gourd crops are reaching markets in Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, commanding good prices.
He said a 25-kg crate of tomato is fetching between Rs 750 and Rs 850 a box in Solan, while it was around Rs 650 last year.
The price of a crate increases by Rs 250-Rs 350 in the Delhi and Chandigarh wholesale markets.
Tomato is one of the major off-season cash crops grown in the lower and mid-hills of the state. Solan district alone harvests around 175,000 tonnes of tomato, half of the state's overall production.
Farmers in Shimla, Kangra and Solan districts said the damage to the crop due to heavy rainfall and outbreak of diseases is less this monsoon compared to the past.
Government estimates say vegetable cultivation in Himachal, especially off-season, has increased the state's annual production to over 1.4 million tonnes, and taken its annual revenue well over Rs 2,500 crore.
The state is also a major capsicum producer in the region with the bulk of the crop finding markets not only in Chandigarh and Delhi but also as far as Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
It's grown in about 1,200 hectares mainly in Solan, Shimla and Sirmaur districts. The state annually produces 100,000 tonnes of the capsicum.
The wholesale price of super quality capsicum was Rs 30 to Rs 35 a kg and retails for Rs 45 to Rs 50 a kg in Chandigarh these days.
The outbreak of buckeye rot fungus disease was minimal this monsoon in the tomato and capsicum crops across the state due to less frequency of excessive showers, Deputy Director (Agriculture) Charanjit Kapoor told IANS.
Charan Dass Verma, a beaming cabbage grower at Jabbarhatti on the outskirts of Shimla, said the crop is abundant this time due to good pre-monsoon showers and less heavy spells of showers during the monsoon.
"Last year most of the cabbage crop was damaged due to inundating of fields with rainwater. This season the monsoon rains are regular but not heavy so far," he said.
He said the wholesale rate of cabbage in Shimla is Rs 30 to Rs 35 a kg, while it is Rs 45 to Rs 50 in Chandigarh and Rs 55 to Rs 60 in Delhi.
Last year, he said, it was less than Rs 10 a kg in the wholesale market during this period.
Likewise, seedless cucumber is retailing at Rs 60 per kg in Chandigarh.
Met Director Manmohan Singh said Himachal Pradesh was 34 percent rain deficient from July 1 to July 19.
The state received 115 mm of rain against the average of 175 mm during this period.
The state is also laying emphasis on organic farming to cash in on the high demand for such products and the remunerative prices of such products -- be it fruits, vegetables or pulses.
According to the agriculture department, 26,741 farmers have been registered as practitioners of organic farming and a 15,548-hectare area has been brought under organic farming.