Weather aberrations and rising demand-supply mismatch have prevented vegetable prices from cooling down. This is unusual since prices trend to come down during this time of the year.
A vegetable wholesaler in Delhi's Azadpur vegetable market said that the early monsoon this year was good for the overall agriculture economy. "However, prolonged rains in several states acted as a spoilsport. We have had heavy rains even a week ago -- in states like Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka," he added.
Data shows that retail prices of vegetables such as tomato, capsicum, beans, cabbage, etc have seen a substantial spurt compared to a year ago rates. In some cases, rates have more than doubled compared to last year (see chart)
Tomato, for instance, is selling at Rs 50 per kilogram compared to Rs 18 per kilogram a year ago. Cabbage is selling for Rs 42 per kg against Rs 22 per kg a year ago. A few days ago, onion prices came down marginally to around Rs 70 per kg from Rs 80 per kg. But it continues to be much higher compared to last year's corresponding price of Rs 20 per kg. Even potato prices have climbed to Rs 30-35 per kg. They are 50 per cent higher compared to last year. In fact, out of the twelve vegetables (including onion and potato) captured in the chart, prices of eleven vegetables have increased. Only peas prices went down by a marginal Rs 10 to Rs 79 per kg.
The rising vegetable prices have also contributed to the high inflation in the country. Wholesale price index based inflation in September rose to eight month high of 6.46 per cent. Vegetable prices went up by 89.37 per cent at the wholesale level. Overall food prices were up 18.4 per cent compared to last September.
The business head of a retail vegetable and fruits chain said that part of the higher price might be linked to the rising cost of growing vegetables, transportation and labour cost. "The concern is that a marginal drop or rise in availability triggers a sharp spike or decline in prices in the country," he said.
Perennial problems in the agriculture supply chain such as lack of cold storage, road infrastructure and wastage at the farm level remain. One thing is certain -- we cannot expect prices to go back to last year's level anytime soon.
|Pricey Winter Vegetables|
Prices of vegetables such as capsicum, tomato, brinjal, cabbage shoot up ahead of winter
Price on 31.10.2011
| Beans ||84||69||74|
| All Prices in Rs/kg for Delhi Markets|
Source: Trade, Dept of Consumer Affairs