Vegetable price hike: Low production, rain hit supply

Vegetable prices are unusually high this winter, with some items selling at five times the last year’s retail rates. Both wholesalers and retailers say they can’t recall the last time when the seasonal vegetables were so expensive.

Sample this: A kilogram of tomatoes is being sold for Rs 70, double the rate it was available for last December.

Even as the retail price of onions has come down to Rs 50 per kilogram from Rs 80 a couple of weeks ago, it is still much higher than last year’s.

“The wholesale price of onion was Rs 25-26 per kilo last Monday, but today, it has increased to Rs 35. On Wednesday, rates increased by Rs 5,” said Balbir Singh, chairman, Sabji Mandi Arhtiya Association.

Cauliflower’s rate is four to five times more than the last year’s. Its cost was Rs 10 per kilo last year, whereas this year its price is Rs 30-40 per kg. Its price has dipped by Rs 10 in a day.

At Rs 18-20 per kilo, Brinjal is cheaper than other vegetables.

Why the spike?

Onion is supplied to the city from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh (Indore) and Gujarat (Bharatnagar).

Singh cites recent rains in Maharashtra and Gujarat as the reason for the price spike, saying that loading of onions was affected due to showers. “Transportation takes four-five days and one cannot bring onions spoiled by rain as they will rot on the way,” he said.

 Last year, there was bumper crop of onion due to which rates were very low and farmers incurred huge losses. So this year, cultivation area was reduced, leading to less supply,” said Singh, adding that the situation is likely to improve in the next ten days.

By this time of the year, vegetable supply from Himachal Pradesh gets over and the city gets vegetables from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and other places.

Punjab Agricultural University professor MS Sidhu said the gap between demand and supply is leading to high rates. “High rates are because of less supply. It seems the area under vegetable production has also decreased and unfavourable climatic conditions are resulting in less production,” he said.

Punjab horticulture director Pushpinder Singh Sidhu said, “Poor supply of vegetables is the only reason behind such high rates. As vegetables are perishable, they cannot be hoarded illegally.”

Their plight

A vegetable wholesaler Sandeep Kumar said, “This year the rates of almost all the vegetables are quite high. Supply is also less.”

Mandeep Singh, a farmer from Samrala, said, “This year, it rained heavily during sowing time, due to which we suffered losses and there was less production. This led to spike in rates.”

Singh, however, feels that the increased rates are doing little for them. “Last year, we incurred heavy losses as we sold cauliflower at Rs 2-3 per kilo and potatoes were sold for Rs 1 per kilo in wholesale. This year, we are recovering our last year’s losses.”

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