As if the delayed monsoon was not making lives much easier, consumers are being made to shell out more money for buying everyday vegetables. Especially, prices of tomatoes have zoomed to about Rs100 per kg within a fortnight across the country. While some experts feel that this is due to lower crop output, few consumers are blaming this on hoarders and the government for its failure to arrest this sudden price rise.
In Mumbai, while the tomatoes are being sold at Rs100 per kg as against Rs50 two weeks ago, in Delhi the prices have gone up to Rs35 from Rs17.50 per kg. Prices of cluster beans, cauliflower, brinjal, bottle gourd, green chilli, capsicum and other vegetables have also gone up while green vegetables such as spinach, methi and coriander have been witnessing a 100% hike in prices over past few weeks.
According to Twitterati, this sudden rise in prices is due to not allowing vegetables enter the market. One Ajay Singh says, “Trucks are stopped on roads, only limited supply letting into the market. At the same time, procurement of tomatoes from farmers hit low of Rs3-4 per kg.”
Some feels that the agricultural produce market committee (APMC) are playing games with supply and demand. At present, farmers in Maharashtra have to sell their vegetables and fruits to licensed traders of APMCs, who then sell it to vendors and retailers. The state government proposed to allow farmers directly sell their produce to consumers, which apparently have not gone down well with the APMC traders and members of the unions.
The National Horticulture Board (NHB) has provided a flat growth forecast for crop year 2015-16 on vegetable production. NHB says vegetable production during 2015-16 would decline marginally to 168.5 million tonnes (mt) from 169.48 mt a year ago. High temperatures during April and May have affected tomato production adversely in the key growing belts of Maharashtra like Narayangaon and Junnar near Pune as well as northern parts of the country, say experts.
Speaking with Business Standard, Shriram Gadhave, president of Vegetables Growers Association of India, said, “Yield has been severely lower this year, with farmers witnessing 25% recovery of major vegetables, after summer heat. As against eight tonnes per acre of tomato output in the normal case, farmers are harvesting two 2 tonnes or less. The quality of harvest is also poorer than expected.”
According to Gadhave, the high temperatures during April and May resulted in around 85-90% of flowers and leaves of vegetable plants being dropped, leaving hardly 10% of the farmers with a crop, especially tomatoes.
There has also been a sharp decline in arrivals due to crop losses. Add to this the severe drought in Maharashtra, which has affected overall production of vegetables. At Vashi, average arrival is down to 100 to 150 trucks from an average of over 500 trucks. This wholesale market receives about 500 to 550 trucks of vegetable and other agricultural produce every day. Due to the drought, most traders from Maharashtra are procuring vegetables from other states, like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka and Haryana. However, this is also not sufficient and has led to price increase, feels the traders.
According to experts, this situation is likely to remain for the next two months or till new crops comes in. “Vegetables sown now with the onset of the monsoon rain would be harvested only by the end of August. Till then, consumers will have bear with high prices,” Gadhave told Business Standard.
Here are the wholesale prices as on 14 June 2016 at Mumbai market...