India's Tomato Crops Feel the Heat

Aug 2, 2023

Indian food relies on tomatoes as a main crop. Tomatoes are used in savory butter chicken and hearty dal stews. They're in colorful kebabs and spicy chutneys. But this year, climate change has cooks scrambling to find the suddenly rare, pricey fruit.           

Tomato prices in India went up 500% between May and late July. Those are official numbers. It’s harder to find tomatoes in restaurants and groceries, too. Western chains like McDonald’s and Subway stopped serving tomatoes. Some families have started storing them up in freezers or canning them. This leaves few for others to find.         

“Earlier, we would consume about two or three kilos of tomatoes a week in our family of five,” Neeta Agarwal told the New York Times (NYT). She's a software developer in East Delhi. She said they're now eating only half a kilo per week. 

Tomatoes are soft and spoil quickly. So, they're extra vulnerable to climate change. Heat waves in March and April hurt crop growth across India. Recent floods have ruined entire fields of tomatoes. The Indian government has tried to offset the losses. It brought in 330 tons of tomatoes from other countries. It's selling them for 70 rupees per kilogram, rather than the market rate of 300/kg. But so far, it hasn’t been enough.  

Experts warn that unless India does more to prepare for climate change, in the future it could face more shortages.

“We have to foresee and plan for the impact of climate change on food production,” agriculture economist Devinder Sharma told the NYT. “We should maintain adequate food stock for at least two years because any season could go wrong.”

Reflect: If you were to grow a fruit or vegetable in a garden, what would it be and how would you care for it?

Photo from Reuters.

Based on the details in the story, the reader can predict that _______. (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. tomato farmers in India will stop attempting to grow tomatoes in the future
b. Indian families will switch to eating other fruits and vegetables instead of tomatoes
c. the Indian government will put strict restrictions on exporting tomatoes
d. climate change may contribute to more tomato shortages in the future
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