The price fluctuation of the vegetables and the exorbitant prices of certain necessary vegetables are a source of major concern for the citizens, who visit the local markets to procure vegetables for their daily need. It is now an accepted fact that, marketing for vegetables will burn multiple holes in the pocket of the consumer. Certain vegetables, such as onion, have simply become untouchable. Price of tomatoes keep increasing, without any apparent reason, while the lack of proper storage facilities compel the farmers of North Bengal, to dump their excess crop on the road. It is also to be mentioned here that, the price of a certain vegetable, say onion, varies considerably from market to market.

Vegetable markets in Delhi:

Defying the Government efforts to contain the rising prices of vegetables like tomato and onion, their prices only shot up following Deewali. As of 7th November, 2013, the price of onions have touched Rs 90 per kg, while in some parts of the city, the price of onions were an exorbitant Rs100 per kg. What is more alarming is that, the retailers had alluded of a further hike in the prices, within the next couple of days. Delhi Azadpur Mandi has been witnessing a consistent increase in the price of tomatoes. The wholesale price for tomatoes, as recorded on November 1st, 2013, was varying between Rs 20 to Rs 38 per kg, and onions Rs 13 to Rs 48 per kg. Within a week, the prices have shot up to Rs 20 to 48 per kg, and Rs 20 to Rs 55 per kg, for tomatoes and onions respectively. While the associated officials are upholding the festivities as an excuse for the unprecedented rise in the prices, they also confirmed the prices are likely to drop by November 10th. However, skeptics apprehend that, there will be no discernable drop in the prices of vegetables till November 20th.

As per the statement of Rajendar Sharma, Chairman, Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee, “The wholesale market in Maharashtra is closed for five days during Deewali and this led to a temporary shortage in supply. Usually it takes about five days for the onions to reach the market. By Monday things should be comparatively better.” Underlining the export oriented problems, that are causing the price hike in tomatoes, he further added, “Tomatoes are being exported directly from the fields in Maharashtra and other tomato growing states. The government needs to answer why there is no policy in place to regulate this when there is a shortfall in the market”. Such statements of Rajendar Sharma were directly contradicted by Surendra Sawhney, an onion retailer of the Azadpur Mandi, as evident from his statement, “The Karnataka crop is almost over and Maharashtra is now diverting its supplies there. The supply from Alwar is not coming to Delhi either. Delhi received about 8000 packets of onion on Thursday as opposed to 25000. Another 10 trucks came from Afghanistan and 4 – 6 each from Ajmer, Pune and Karnataka. The quality of the Alwar onions is also very poor….” While Sawhney is hopeful that the onion prices will register a drop by November 20th, boosted by the belated onion supplies from Alwar, tomato traders are of the opinion that, had the monsoon not adversely affected the crop, followed by the festivities of Deewali, tomato prices would have registered a consistency by now.

Vegetable Markets in Goa:  

The main supply of vegetables for Goa comes from the neighbouring areas of Kohlapur and Belgaum. The adverse vegetable market conditions of the neighboring states, stemming from the untimely rains, negatively affecting the vegetable production in the said states, are taking a heavy toll on the vegetable markets of Goa. Consequently prices of vegetables, comprising the daily necessity, have shot up unpredictably, namely onions, potatoes, carrots, beans, cauliflowers etc.

While a retailer in the Panaji Market complained that the unusual price hike was a result of increased labor wages in Belgaum, a regular vegetable consumer pointed out that, the prices of the vegetables have nearly quadrupled this year. As an instance, she cited that while the onion prices were Rs 16 per kg in November, 2012, the same onions are being sold for Rs 60 per kg in November this year. Goa State Horticulture Corporation (GSHC) is, however, selling vegetables at slightly affordable prices.

Vegetable markets in Mumbai:  

In an attempt to curb the rising vegetable prices, the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had sought the intervention of the Agriculture Minister, Radhakrishna Vikhe – Patil, who had come up with this unique idea of opening up stores in supermarket and government owned enterprises. 106 such retail outlets have been planned. In the face of the public outrage, triggered by a five times increase in the price of vegetables, the Agriculture Minister announced, “The prices of vegetables cannot be justified. The inflation has been created by retailers. Shortage of perishable vegetable is 10 – 15 percent. But the price rise is almost 40 – 50 percent”. Highlighting the Government outlets, he further added that, “The effort will be to sell vegetables at a no – profit, no – loss basis”.

A detailed meet held between the Agriculture Minister and the Agriculture Producers and Marketing Corporation (APMC) further confirmed that, the price hike was fabricated. As per the statements of a senior APMC Director (Marketing), “Vegetable markets are clearly being manipulated by retailers who are operating in an organized manner. If price of tomato is Rs 40 per kg, they are selling it for Rs 60 – 70 per kg”. The consumer forum had informed the Government that, the prices of a large variety of fresh vegetables have touched Rs 100 per kg. Meanwhile, Minister for Minorities, Naseem Khan, had beseeched the Agriculture Minister to take steps to curb the prices of fruits as well. This request is based on the month of Ramzan, when the fasting Muslims depend primarily on fruits for daily ingestion.

The Agriculture Minister had acquired the confirmation of the wholesalers, in an attempt to keep the 106 planned outlets well stocked up, with a promise to sell to the consumers, agriculture produces at a feasible and affordable price. Affirming that the outlet plan will be a success, the Agriculture Minister further confirmed, “A similar experiment has been successful in Pune. There are 60 outlets in Pune. An initiative is being taken up in Nagpur as well”. Besides selling vegetables to the consumers at affordable prices, the outlets are also a serious intimation of caution, on behalf of the Government, to the cartelizing retailers.

Inflation caused by the rising vegetable prices:

With the Government and the RBI striving to control the rupee depreciation, a hike in the price of vegetables, increased the inflation to 5.79 percent in July,2013. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, however, expressed hope, as evident from his statement, “With the currency appearing to stabilize, I don’t expect this (inflation) to continue. I think if we can get moderation on the food front once the impact of the good monsoon becomes available, I think we will end the year (with inflation) between 5 – 6 percent”.

Samiran Chakraborty, Head of Research, Standard Chartered, Mumbai, commented, “Given that the food price inflation is at a 38 month high, there is a risk that it could spread to generalized inflation expectations”. The ‘Wholesale Price Index (WPI)’ touched an unprecedented 6.46 percent in September,2013, the highest in the last seven months, following the quantum leap in the food prices, which also increased the ‘consumer price index’ to an annual 9.84 percent.

Conclusion:  

Currently, the essential vegetable prices are burning multiple holes in the pocket of the consumers, while marketing for daily consumable food. However, as predicted by the concerned authorities, the vegetable market will witness a price drop, by the end of November, 2013. The retail outlets and other endeavors of the Government have so far been unsuccessful, in influencing the rising price of the vegetables. No consolidated steps have so far been taken against the retailers fabricating an exorbitant vegetable market. We can only wait it out, and expect the markets to turn, while still buying vegetables at exorbitant rates!