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Vegetable prices could double in Delhi as supply to Azadpur Mandi falls amid Covid cases

As Asia’s biggest vegetables and fruits market sees 15 Covid cases, supply falls from adjoining states. The market’s APMC chief, however, denies supply issues.

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New Delhi: Delhi and three adjoining states could see the prices of vegetable and fruit items double after supply to the Azadpur Mandi fell by nearly half due to Covid-19 infections among traders and the impact of the lockdown.

Azadpur Mandi is the biggest vegetables and fruits market in Asia, which supplies to Delhi and the adjoining states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Besides, 20 per cent of its stock is transported to markets in southern states too.

According to the daily mandi arrival data accessed by ThePrint, potato and onion supply has taken a severe hit among the staple kitchen vegetables.

Potato supply to the market fell by 50 per cent Thursday to 316 tonnes from 631.5 tonnes Tuesday.

Till Tuesday, 11 traders had tested positive for Covid-19, causing fears in the market. On Thursday, four more cases came up, taking the total to 15.

This has further distressed the market which was already dealing with the impact of the lockdown.

In 2019-20, the corresponding figure for potato supply on 30 April was 1,540 tonnes – around five times more than this year’s supply.

Similarly, onion supply Thursday was at 565 tonnes, down from 778 tonnes on 28 April. The year-ago figure on 30 April was 1,318 tonnes.

The minimum wholesale prices of these commodities are in the range of Rs 12-20 currently – almost double of Rs 7-8 from last year. Now, with the fall in supply, they could further double.

The supply of other highly perishable vegetables like bitter gourd and brinjal has also fallen from 106 tonnes to 77 tonnes and 76 tonnes to 57 tonnes, respectively, from Tuesday through Thursday.

Fruit supplies in the mandi have taken the most severe hit with a dip of around 80-90 per cent. The supply is down over 3-4 times compared to last year.

Pomegranate supply has fallen from 159 tonnes on 21 April to 17 tonnes Thursday. Last year, its supply on 30 April was at 594 tonnes.

However, Azadpur Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) chairman Adeel Khan denied any constraints. “Supplies in the mandi remain unaffected and there’s no unusual drop in the vegetable and fruit supply in mandi,” he said.


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The supply issue

Speaking to ThePrint, vendors at the market said supply was already down 50 per cent less as compared to last year. Now, with the Covid-19 infection scare among traders, the supply of major fruit and vegetable items has more than halved further.

Budhi Raja Singh, a wholesale trader of vegetables at Azadpur Mandi in Delhi said, “At least 100-125 of my trucks, each with 20 tonnes of potato or onion or garlic, used to arrive daily. This has been reduced to just to 15-20 per day.”

Singh said almost 80 per cent of the trade in the mandi has been shut in the last couple of days as supplies from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have come to a halt.

These supplies have fallen amid traders’ fears over the infection cases. The Haryana government has already sealed its borders.

Singh added that the Delhi government’s 13 April order to curtail the mandi timings to enforce social distancing has made the market more crowded.

“The trade of perishable items like coriander and watermelon used to happen at night while other items were sold in the morning but now with everything selling at the same time people pushed and shoved each other which caused the spread of coronavirus,” he said.

The government had ordered traders to follow odd-even rules, with half of them working on one day and the other half the next day. Timing for selling vegetables was changed to 6-11 am, and for fruits to 2-6 pm.


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Covid-19 outbreak blow

Azadpur Mandi traders said the lockdown from 24 March had already wiped off 50 per cent of the business as large hotel and restaurant chains, marriage halls and other wholesale purchasers went absent.

The Covid-19 outbreak in the market has now dealt another blow to trade.

A large section of traders has either stopped trading or threatened to shut down fearing infection while labourers, middlemen and other daily wagers are demanding adequate safety measures.

Tomato wholesaler Mintu Chauhan said the prices of tomatoes across Delhi could rise by Rs 2-8 per kg as supplies from distant states like Karnataka and nearby states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana have fallen.

Chauhan said he is stuck in Haryana’s Sonepat and is unable to travel to the market as borders are sealed.

“On normal days there was a daily inflow of at least 25 trucks with tomatoes, each with a capacity of 16 tonnes. However, this has been reduced to just 4 trucks now so I don’t supply my produce in other mandis like Ghazipur because of lack of stock and labour there,” he said.

The APMC’s position

On the spread of Covid-19, APMC chief Adeel Khan said two medical teams by the Delhi government will be deployed in the market soon to test anyone with symptoms.

However, APMC member Anil Malhotra expressed fears that there could be many more Covid-19 positive cases in the market as many people are hiding their condition.

“All the confirmed positive cases from the mandi are of the traders who are admitted in the private hospital at their expenses. Due to lack of testing, there could be dozens of hidden cases in mandi among transporters, labourers, middlemen and sanitary workers,” he said.


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