MUMBAI: Despite the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown, retail prices of vegetables continue to rise in an unbridled manner. In fact the new average has risen to Rs 80-100 per kilo for common garden vegetables as compared to Rs 60-80 in the pre-lockdown days.
This has caused anxiety among households which consume only vegetarian food during the Navratra fast. Traders in APMC Vashi blame the escalation on excessive rainfall, and warn that rates will not reduce until November-December.
Onion has risen to Rs 65-75 per kg, tomato is Rs 50-60, even the humble potato which is usually steady, has spiralled to Rs 45. The normal average for each is Rs 22-25 per kg.
The king of the table is the round gourd or tinda, which has risen to an astounding Rs 240 per kilo. Beans are selling for Rs 140 while lady finger and brinjal cost Rs 80-100. Gavar or cluster beans have risen to Rs 120. Coriander has gone off the table since the start of the lockdown with a meagre bunch costing Rs 20-30 as against Rs 10 before.
“In fact the scenario has worsened since the lockdown was lifted. At first greengrocers said that rates would ease after transportation improved. Now they say the crop has failed. How does a family struggling with business failure, lost jobs and reduced salaries cope with such high food inflation?” said Sharad Uke, who runs a mobile shop near Apna Bazar, Andheri.
Non-vegetarian families are not spared the pressure of inflation either with eggs costing Rs 80 per dozen, chicken Rs 170 per kg and mutton Rs 800-850.
Consumers fear that unscrupulous traders and middlemen are recovering their losses of the lockdown from the average buyer.
However, Shankar Pingale, director of APMC’s vegetable market, said, “The heavy rainfall that occurred last month caused standing crops to wilt, and damaged stocks. As a result, there is a shortage of several vegetables. Rates will remain high until November.”
Another director Ashok Walunj of the onion-potato market said, “Potato arrives from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and marginally Gujarat. As for onion, the early kharif crop in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka has been badly damaged by rain. Onions stored from the bumper rabi harvest have been damaged too. The requirement for MMR is 125 truckloads daily but the market is receiving only 60-70 truckloads. I predict that onion will rise to Rs 100 per kilo by October 26.”
Walunj claimed that higher retail rates translate into better prices for farmers.