Vegetable prices on rise; Vendors blame crop damage and diesel price

Vegetable prices are on the peak in many parts of the country including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Chandigarh usually the prices of fruits and vegetables remain high in the month of May due to unavailability but this year it is occurring due to increase in diesel price, excessive rainfall, constricted transportation, lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic and deficiency of produce have shoved the prices of vegetables up in the country striking the common man hard.

Fruit and vegetable cost is apparently becoming a barrier to intake to many homes in India. An unexpected spike in vegetable price is an additional burden for millions of households because already they are wrestling to survive with the financial distress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Recently the data compiled by the government shows an all-India monthly average retail price of potato rose to Rs 39.3 kg and it’s almost double that of October 2019. As a result, more than 61% of households are lately paying more than ₹60 per kg for tomatoes, ₹40 per kg for Potatoes and ₹93 per kg for onions and this is an essential Vegetable for every family of India. Vegetables arrive in small mandis after they are procured by retailers from big mandis and the retailers then fix the prices of vegetables as per the locality.

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Traders said prices are likely to remain explosive until monsoon rain covers the main growing areas in the country.  From various part of India, Vendors stated the problems behind the sharp rise, like in Kolkata partial lockdown and the shutdown of local train service and cyclone Amphan as a lot of agricultural lands was inundated, produce was wasted and in some areas, saline water has destroyed the cultivable land, in addition to this in city Lucknow Prices of vegetables is skyrocketing even as the coronavirus crisis shows no sign of abating. There is a lot of discontentment amongst both shopkeepers and buyers regarding the rise in vegetable prices.

In addition to this, India’s cold storage capacity at present is nearly 3.5 crore tonnes, which is short by 30-40 lakh tonnes, and it needs to be increased. The high cost of transport needs to be addressed. In the case of perishable vegetables, the government could consider promoting low-cost refrigerated trucks and weigh the option of freight subsidy.

Currently, according to an estimate, 7,000-8,000 refrigerated trucks are plying in India, mostly transporting pharmaceuticals and dairy products. Transport of perishable vegetables in refrigerated trucks could be one of the options that would help in better supply and availability of the produce.

The traders hope that the situation will improve after the supplies are available from local Punjab and Haryana farmers. However, it may take another fortnight or more for the prices to come down.

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