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Haryana

Escalating retail price of vegetables hits residents’ kitchen budget

January 20, 2020 05:39 AM

COURTESY HT JAN 20

A combination of unseasonal rains, poor management of demand and supply has led to the price hike, officials said. ht archive
Archana Mishra

archana.mishra@hindustantimes.com

Gurugram : For Rashmi Ranjan and her husband, residents of Sector 14, the skyrocketing prices of vegetables have been eating into their monthly budget.

“Our fortnightly expenditure on vegetables used to be ₹1,500. It has now increased to ₹2,000-2,300, which comes to a monthly increase of around ₹1,600 per month,” said Ranjan, who stopped purchasing onions after they crossed ₹70/kg last month. A combination of factors, including poor management of the demand and supply , absence of real-time data on production and distribution of produce, and damage due to unseasonal rainfall, have together contributed to the hike in vegetable prices.

Price discrepancy

The sabzi mandi (vegetable market) at Khandsa is operated by both wholesalers and retailers. Buyers here are generally local vegetable sellers, residents and small-time hotel or dhaba owners. Local vendors, who purchase items directly from wholesalers, sell vegetables in residential societies and small markets in different areas.

During a visit to one of these mandis by an HT reporter, it was found that retailers operating within the same market were selling vegetables at a price much higher than the wholesalers, who sit almost 50 steps away. “In December, prices of onion, potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables escalated. They have now come down. Despite that, retailers are selling them at a higher price,” said Narinder, a wholesaler.

He explained the reason behind the discrepancy in the prices of vegetables within the same market⁠—wholesalers sell vegetables in bulk. Only big retailers or hotel owners can afford to buy in such quantities, while a consumer’s purchase is restricted to a kilogram or two. Therefore, consumers are left with no option but to buy from retailers who sell at higher prices.

businesses affected

The increasing prices of vegetables have affected small-time dhaba owners of the city. An owner of one of the popular dhabas in the city said that in the last three months, input costs have increased due to the price rise of vegetables. “Even though we buy vegetables in bulk from Delhi and Gurugram markets, the input cost has drastically increased, affecting the overall profit margin. We cannot increase the rate per plate despite the high prices of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and garlic,” said Rao Lal Singh, owner of Old Rao Hotel,

The prices further spike in local supermarkets markets of upscale areas as well.

Authorities react

The Haryana Agriculture Marketing Board (HSAMB) keeps a check on the wholesale prices by keeping a stock of food items. “Since the Gurugram market is not big as the Delhi or Madhya Pradesh mandi, there is no possibility of enough stocking. Moreover, retail prices cannot be controlled,” said Raj Kumar Beniwal, chief marketing enforcement officer, HSAMB. “There is also an absence of real-time data in our country related to the production of fruits and vegetables grown during different seasons. The data not only helps maintain a regular supply but also helps monitor and keep a regular check on the market fluctuations. Through the data, we can timely predict the unexpected price rise of fruits and vegetables. However, this is not possible in our country due to the lack of data,” said Beniwal.

There are other immediate factors responsible for the price rise as well.

“In the case of onions, the price surge has been due to crop damage by heavy rains in onion-producing states. For other vegetables, there has been no management in controlling demand and supply. Farmers are not getting weather advisory at the time of sowing. It results in an overall loss in the production, disrupting the demand and supply cycle,” said an HSAMB official on condition of anonymity.

Residents cry foul

Residents believe that the government has failed in regulating retail prices of vegetables. Sonia Vaid, a resident of Sector 40 said, “The government should not only regulate prices in sabzi mandi but also in retail stores as well. Neither the end consumers nor farmers are getting benefitted by the spike in prices. It is only the middlemen who are profiting.”

Measures taken

In September 2019, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India released 50 metric tonnes of onions through Public Distribution System(PDS) in the district to make up for the shortage of supply of onions. One kilogram was sold at ₹31 in PDS shops.

Further, officials say they are trying to promote a farmers’ and producers’ organisation as a part of the market strategy. It would reduce the gap between farmers and government agencies, helping to address issues pertaining to demand and supply.

 

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