New Delhi: The Indian kitchen faces a tough time this festive season. A combination of factors — surging fuel prices, erratic rains, and festive demand — has caused a spurt in the rates of kitchen staples onion, tomato and potato.
Price data from Delhi’s Azadpur mandi — Asia’s biggest wholesale fruit and vegetable market — shows that the average price of tomatoes has increased by nearly 300 per cent in a month.
Wholesale prices had touched the Rs 60/kg mark on 13 October, up from Rs 16 on 7 September, and retail rates — the cost at which customers purchase it — are in the Rs 70-80/kg bracket.
The wholesale price of potatoes has risen to Rs 20 from Rs 10 in the same period, and that of onions to Rs 40 from Rs 17.
At the Vashi APMC wholesale market in Navi Mumbai, the price of tomatoes has increased to Rs 57/kg from Rs 35/kg on 7 September.
According to data compiled by the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry, Kolkata has registered the maximum increase in the retail price of tomatoes among major cities.
On 13 October, tomatoes were being sold at Rs 75/kg in the Bengal capital, compared to Rs 27/kg a month before. In Delhi and Chennai, the price was Rs 72/kg, up from Rs 31/kg and Rs 28/kg, respectively. In Mumbai, the prices surged to Rs 58/kg from Rs 21/kg.
Pradeep Sonkar, a wholesale vegetable seller at Sealdah’s Koley market in Kolkata, said “tomato prices have witnessed the maximum increase with wholesale rates going up from Rs 22/kg to Rs 65/kg in a fortnight”.
“Even the prices of other perishable vegetables and condiments such as ginger, garlic, lemon and coriander have shot up,” he added.
‘Trend to continue for now’
Mintu Chauhan, a tomato wholesaler at Azadpur mandi, said its wholesale price “across Delhi could further rise to Rs 70-80/kg for a month as crop arrival from Himachal Pradesh and Haryana has been hampered since last week”.
“Moreover, states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, which are major producers and suppliers of onions and tomatoes, have witnessed severe crop damage owing to heavy rains in September,” Chauhan said.
He added, “The early-monsoon downpour in Himachal has destroyed a considerable amount of crop, while the end-monsoon showers damaged crops in southern and central states.
“The new crop of Maharashtra and Karnataka will arrive in a few months and only then will the prices of tomatoes cool down. As of now, even in Bengaluru, the wholesale price of tomatoes is Rs 30-40/kg, which surges when transported to Delhi with high fuel prices,” Chauhan explained.
The Azadpur mandi caters not just to Delhi but also the adjoining states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, besides Rajasthan. Around 20 per cent of its stock is transported to markets in southern states too.
Budhi Raja Singh, a wholesale trader of vegetables at Azadpur mandi, said the arrival of onions has suffered the most severe blow since this is the crop’s lean season.
“However, the prices have not surged as much as those of tomatoes due to suppressed demand during Navratri,” he added, citing the Navratri tradition observed by many whereby they abstain from non-vegetarian food as well as onions and garlic.
“Once it is over and the festive demand continues till the new year, the price of onion will also pick up with other vegetables and even touch the previous year’s record of Rs 100/kg,” he said.
Singh also blamed the current situation on erratic rains.
“Maharashtra, MP and Karnataka all are leading producers and suppliers of both onions and tomatoes across the country. This year, the production was hit earlier with lower rainfall, and the remaining crops were thrashed by heavy unseasonal rainfall in September,” he said. “Therefore, the prices of both commodities will remain high this year at least until festival season.”
Traders say rising fuel prices — petrol and diesel prices have breached Rs 100/litre in many cities — have further worsened the situation by pushing up transportation charges.
“With rising fuel prices, all costs, packing, labour for loading and unloading, along with overall transportation… everything has contributed to increasing the prices of vegetables,” said Awadhesh Singh, a wholesale onion, garlic and tomato trader at Ghazipur, another wholesale mandi in Delhi.
“If we paid Rs 150-170 for a katta (carton) of 25-30 kg from Maharashtra to Delhi, now we have to pay around Rs 200-230. With additional supply disruption from states — such as shortage and quality deterioration and festival demand — vegetable prices will further shoot up in the coming days. We are expecting the three vegetables to be sold at least above Rs 50/kg for the next few months,” he added.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)