Last year it was wheat, then sugar. This year it’s all about tomatoes.

As weather patterns grow erratic — rains too heavy and often out of sync with agricultural calendars, and heat cycles starting earlier and breaking records — food shortages are one of the many ways India is reeling from climate change.

Supplies have dwindled, and prices are rising – in the case of tomatoes, at least a fivefold increase between May and mid-July according to official figures, and an even steeper spike based on consumer accounts. The government was forced to take emergency measures, curbing exports and injecting subsidized supplies into the market to reduce the shock on the world’s most populous nation.

In recent weeks, families have rationed their consumption of tomatoes, which are fundamental to the Indian diet. They omit tomatoes from salads, keeping the few they can afford to flavor the main dish. Some, fearing even higher prices, stored tomatoes as puree in their freezers. Restaurants removed tomato-heavy items from their menus or raised the prices. McDonald’s dropped tomatoes of its burgers in large parts of northern and eastern India.

Tomatoes have even found their way into the middle of India’s raucous, and increasingly polarized, politics. A prominent leader of the ruling Hindu nationalist party, Himanta Biswa Sarma, blamed the country’s Muslims for the price hike. A shopkeeper in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi district, a supporter of an opposition party, has hired uniformed bouncers to guard his small stock of tomatoes.

“Earlier, we would consume about two to three kilograms of tomatoes a week in our family of five,” said Neeta Agarwal, a developer who was shopping on a recent evening in east Delhi. “Now we only consume half a kilo a week.”

In some places, prices have risen from 30 rupees a kilogram, or about 13 cents a pound, to more than 200 rupees.

“We’ve stopped eating tomatoes in salad,” Ms. Agarwal added, “and we don’t do any tomato-based vegetable dishes. We only use tomatoes for a small base sauce for lentils and curries.”

India, like much of South Asia, is on the front lines of climate change. Extreme weather events test the resilience the country has tried to build in recent decades to reduce the loss of life to extreme poverty and disease. Floods and droughts continue to displace large numbers of people. Agriculture, which provides a livelihood for more than half the population, has already struggled to be profitable due to a lack of crop diversity and unreliable market arrangements that have fueled peasant debt, suicides and protest. The increasing unpredictability of climate patterns and the constant threat of catastrophic events have made matters worse.

But nowhere is India’s vulnerability to climate change more acutely felt than in food security. Although the country has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in recent decades, analysts say much of India’s population of 1.4 billion remains just above the threshold, vulnerable to any shock.

In a report last year, the United Nations noted the increase in extreme weather events in South Asia, saying they “will have an adverse impact on food availability and prices.”

India’s agriculture minister told the country’s parliament earlier this year that “climate change is projected to reduce wheat yields by 19.3 percent in 2050 and 40 percent in 2080,” while corn yields could drop by as much as 18 to 23 percent over the same period.

Just how much vigilance food security requires was demonstrated last year.

At the beginning of the year, the government announced that it would expand exports to help countries struggling with wheat shortages due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But soon after, it quietly reversed the decision to the other extreme – curbing even earlier levels of exports.

The reason: The wheat crop has been plagued by extreme weather patterns. Unseasonable rain flooded the fields, and then extreme heat dried up the grain. The result was at least a 3.5 percent drop in yields, with some parts of the country experiencing as sharp a drop as 15 percent. As a precaution, when the sugarcane crop also faced a similar fall, the government also curbed sugar exports.

“We need to anticipate and plan for the impact of climate change on food production,” said Devinder Sharma, an independent agricultural economist. “We should store adequate food for at least two years because any season could go wrong.”

The tomato shortage, farmers and traders say, is a result of a supply and demand disruption in the market, followed by extreme weather events.

The previous crop of tomatoes was such a bumper crop that many farmers had no takers. Tomatoes were rotting in fields, because the cheap prices in the market did not even justify shipping costs.

This has discouraged some farmers from growing tomatoes for the current crop.

What would have been a smaller harvest was then made worse by extreme heat in March and April, followed by flooding in recent weeks that not only destroyed fields but also wiped out bridges and blocked roads in parts of northern India.

In recent weeks, as tomato prices have become a dominant issue, the Indian government has injected as many as 330 tonnes of tomatoes – first at the subsidized price of 90 rupees per kilo and then at 70 rupees per kilo — into the market.

“When farmers were suffering, no government help came,” said Yogesh Rayate, a tomato farmer in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, in the west of the country. “But when urban consumers suffer, then there’s a lot of hue and cry.”

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