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Monday, November 29, 2021

Delayed monsoon, rain-damaged crops: Vegetable prices hit the roof across state

The price rise follows a glut in August-September when farmers had to dump their produce due to a delayed monsoon and bumper crop.

Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara |
October 19, 2021 2:08:24 am
cpi retail inflationPeople purchasing vegetable from a wholesale market . (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav/File)

Written by AVINASH NAIR, GOPAL KATESHIYA & ADITI RAJA

Wholesale vegetable prices in Gujarat are soaring, thanks to a late monsoon and erratic rains leading to a dip in supply to the markets.

According to officials and traders, the wholesale rates of vegetables coming to Sardar Patel Market Yard in Ahmedabad (or Jamalpur APMC) — one of the largest vegetable markets in the state— have risen between 25 per cent and 300 per cent in the past 30 days.

The price rise follows a glut in August-September when farmers had to dump their produce due to a delayed monsoon and bumper crop.

Wholesale prices of vegetables such as onions, used for daily cooking, have more than doubled between September 18 and October 18. The onions from Saurashtra that were priced at Rs 700-1500 per quintal shot up to Rs 1500-2800, a rise by more than 110 per cent, states the data sourced from Jamalpur APMC. The prices of onions from Maharashtra also rose by 50 per cent to Rs 1500 per quintal.

Last month, the prices of the humble potatoes (desi variety), rose by 25 per cent to Rs 500-900 a quintal. The Deesa variety currently costs Rs 600-1200. Leafy vegetables such as cabbage saw a 300 per cent jump in prices and were selling at Rs 1500-2500 a quintal. A similar jump was also seen in prices of carrots that rose by over 300 per cent and are currently priced at Rs 4000-5000 a quintal.

Tomatoes (ripe)–another key ingredient–were selling at Rs 3000-6000 a quintal, a 275 per cent rise from last month’s prices (Rs 800-1200). Green chilies saw a 100 per cent jump, while prices of fresh coriander saw a 66 per cent hike. “The prices have risen largely due to the heavy rainfall across the state towards the end of the monsoon. This damaged the crops in some places, while it delayed harvesting at some centres, thus, adding to the cost. Some of our vegetables also come from Maharashtra and late rains there, too, affected the supply,” said Deepak Patel, secretary of Jamalpur APMC.

“The current month falls between two seasons–monsoon and winter. The winter vegetables are yet to come and so there is a natural shortage. The quantum of vegetables coming to the APMC is 15 per cent less than usual,” Patel added.

In Rajkot, the prices of important vegetable items have doubled or tripled over the last one month and traders blame it on the dip in supply due to a rainy September. “The farmers who used to bring 200 kg of green chilies a month ago is able to supply hardly 50 kg now. Almost all vegetable crops were damaged or destroyed by the September rains. Till a few days ago, fenugreek leaves and coriander leaves were getting sold at Rs 175 kg and Rs 150 kg respectively in the APMC. We have never seen such high prices ever,” Ashok Dobariya, a leading vegetable trader in Rajkot APMC said.

Usually, cabbage and cauliflowers flood markets this time of the year. However, this time, such vegetables, too, are in short supply due to the rains throughout September and early October, he said. “For tomatoes also, we are dependent on supplies from Nasik and Bengaluru as the local crop has been damaged by the rains. Coriander leaves are coming all the way from Indore via Nadiad market,” Dobariya said.

Rajkot APMC data show that fenugreek leaves and coriander leaves were trading at Rs 12-Rs 33 per kg and Rs 19-Rs 40 per kg respectively on September 18. But on Monday, their prices were in the range of Rs 80 to Rs 100. Similarly, tomatoes used to get auctioned off at Rs 11 to Rs 18 per kg a month ago but on Monday, their prices were in the Rs 50-Rs 60 range. Lady’s finger used to cost Rs 14-Rs 17 per kg a month ago but on Monday it was in the Rs 55-Rs 75 range. Guar prices, too, have shot up from Rs 20 to around Rs 75.

“The main reason is the dip in supply. But the arrivals have started increasing over the past week and we expect some correction in prices post Diwali,” DR Jadeja, the assistant secretary who looks after the vegetable division of Rajkot APMC, said.

Dobariya said those farmers who persisted even after a depression in prices are recovering from their losses. “For two full months, they sold all their vegetable varieties at Rs 2 to Rs 3 per kg. Many even couldn’t recover their transportation costs and some dumped green chilies, bottle gourds, etc on the roadside. But the experienced farmers persisted and are now recovering their losses,” said the trader.
Incidentally, July and August had largely remained sunny with few rainy days, leading to a bumper harvest of all vegetables. “But the rains damaged the crops and new crops planted by farmers take at least a month to arrive in the market,” said Dobariya.

However, Satyaprem Kachchiya Patel, whose father Sukhdev is the president of the Sayajipura Vegetable Market Yard Traders Association, said while the prices of vegetables have increased marginally, it is the retail vendors, who are fleecing customers. “There is no denying the fact that some vegetables like onions, tomatoes and toor are expensive at the moment as compared to previous years. That is because the supply from the neighbouring states has slowed down since the transportation costs have increased… Onions come from Maharashtra and are being sold at Rs 30 per kilo at source, so it is natural for the retail price to be around Rs 50 but as far as other vegetables are concerned, the prices are not as high as the retailers are selling it for,” Patel told The Indian Express.

Patel said Vadodara has been getting its cauliflower stock from Rajasthan while fresh coriander comes from Madhya Pradesh. “On Monday, the wholesale price of cauliflower was Rs 20 per kilo but the retailers are selling it for way above Rs 100 per kilo. As far as tomatoes are concerned, the produce in Chhota Udepur has not yet reached the market… It will take about 15 days, and then the prices will stabilise,” he added. Most of Vadodara’s vegetables come from the surrounding villages, in addition to Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra.

On the other hand, retail vegetable vendors complained of high purchase prices from middlemen. A vendor from Manjalpur who sold cauliflower at Rs 60 for 500 grams on Sunday said, “Ever since the cyclone hit Gujarat, the vegetable prices have soared even for vendors. The extremely perishable vegetables are almost out of stock as no one wants to take the chance of buying and being left with unsold stock. Most of us vendors suffered heavy losses during September-end and early October as unsold vegetables perished faster than expected.”

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