-Late DC Mehta was a farmer with Midas Touch
-First Tomato Harvesting to The City of Red Gold
He was a farmer with Midas touch. He was a visionary and due to his dedication & struggle , today Solan is known as the City of Red Gold. We are talking about late Devi Chand Mehta, the man who first started harvesting tomato in Solan. (the man who introduced commercial production of tomato to Solan.)
It was the year 1942 when Saproon valley of Solan witnessed first harvesting of tomato by Late D.C. Mehta. According to the information available, Mehta had sown the Kolkatta based Stuns and Sons Company seeds in his fields. The packets of tomato seed are still lying safe in his home.
Influenced by DC Mehta, in the year 1943-44, the other farmers of the valley also started planting and harvesting tomato. However, at that time it was not at all easy for them to carry the crop to the market. During that time the farmers used to transport the tomato crop to Delhi in locked tins via train. Interesting thing is that the tin had two keys the one of which was with the farmer and another with the aadti (reseller).
In 1945 the farmers started to dispatch their produce packaged in Sunlight soap cartons and boxes used to pack oranges. This mechanism of tomato trading continued for around one decade.
DC Mehta was well aware of marketing and distribution as well. He established tomato collection centres in Saproon, Kandaghat, Occhghat, Kaalaghat and Naarag. He used to collect tomatoes from these centres in his Willys Jeep to be further transported to Calcutta (now Kolkatta), Bombay (now Mumbai ) and Delhi agriculture markets.
In 1956, DC Mehta took another initiative and established a manufacturing unit of pine boxes. After this farmers started using pine boxes to supply the huge quantity of produce. Gradually the tomato production in Solan is raising the par with every passing year.
Tomato has undoubtedly electrified the economy of Solan. According to the information, in 1992-93, the tomato was grown on only 1200-hectare area in Solan. In 2004, farmers produced 92,220 MT of tomato on 2,500 hectares of land in Solan. However, in 2018, they produced 1,25,400 MT on 4,200 hectares.
It is disappointing that the government has failed to set up a cold storage and food processing unit for tomato farmers in Solan. Sometimes due to over production or low demand, the prices of table tomato fell as low as Rs 5 per kg . At such times the farmers are forced to destroy tomato on roadsides or fields during the peak season, as they don’t have any other option.