Agri Business

Falling veggie prices hurt farmers

Vishwanath Kulkarni/TV Jayan/Shobha Roy Bengaluru/New Delhi/Kolkata March 11 | Updated on March 11, 2020

Prices of vegetables in general, barring potatoes, have been trending lower for past few weeks across many parts of the country providing relief to consumers, while leaving the growers in a lurch.

Surplus monsoon and extended rains last year, coupled with favourable climatic conditions, helped boost the production of vegetables impacting the prices, triggering demand for the government intervention from the farming community. The yields are better this year in absence of any pests and diseases and unseasonal rains. Moreover, the local production in consuming States has increased this year hurting demand in the producing regions, traders said.

Prices soften

For example, tomato production is higher in Central Indian States like Chattisgarh and the prices in that region are lower than that in Karnataka’s Kolar, a major area in South. “There is no demand from other States this year as local production has picked up. In Chattisgarh, prices are ruling at ₹80-85 per box of 27 kg, whereas in Kolar a 15-kg box is ruling at ₹50-130. So is the case with Nashik and Gujarat,” said Veeresh, a trader in Kolar, from where tomatoes are traditionally supplied to Central India, Odisha and West Bengal.

On the retail front, prices are hovering at ₹10-30 per kg for variety of vegetables such as carrots, capsicum, beetroot and beans among others as against ₹30-60 a kg, a few weeks earlier.

“There are no takers for vegetables this year,” said Kurubur Shantakumar of Raithamitra Farmer Producer Company in Mysuru, which aggregates from producers and supplies vegetables to Kerala. “Our weekly supplies have dwindled to 30 tonnes now as against 60 tonnes a week till January,” he said.

Further, the scaremongering associated with the spread of coronavirus is also seen impacting the demand indirectly and hurting the farmers, Shantakumar said. “The State government should intervene and rescue the growers,” he said.

Raghunandan of Bhoomee, a company which sources vegetables for modern retail firms, said farmers upset with the prevailing low prices are not keen to pursue harvest in several areas.

The scene is no different in Northern and Eastern regions.

“The prices of most vegetables are down mainly because arrivals are high. Only vegetables whose prices are ruling high still are okra (ladies finger) and bitter gourd. They are coming only from Gujarat right now. The demand is more than the supply. That is why they are costly and being sold at ₹30-40 a kg range. Bitter gourd prices may go down soon once with arrivals from Rajasthan, which is expected in another 15-20 days. The prices of other vegetables are expected to remain low for at least 15-20 days,” said Anil Malhotra, APMC member, trader and commission agent in Delhi.

Rajinder Sharma, a trader in Azadpur Mandi said prices of many vegetables are down as compared to 20-25 days. Prominent among them are tomatoes whose wholesale prices have come down to ₹8 to ₹6 a kg from ₹12-15 a kg earlier, onions whose prices plummeted to ₹20-22 a kg from ₹30-40 a couple of weeks ago. Garlic prices have come down by nearly ₹100 a kg from ₹170-180 a kg to ₹70-80 now.

Vegetable prices in Kolkata have been witnessing a decline over the last two weeks. Price of some of the winter vegetables such as carrots, beans, cauliflower and cabbage have declined by nearly 30-40 per cent over the last two weeks. Price of summer vegetables such as Bengal pointed gourd, ridge gourd and ladies finger have also decreased by close to 30-50 per cent, traders said.

Tomatoes, which were selling at around ₹35-40 a kg even two weeks ago, are currently fetching ₹20-25 a kg; beans is down at ₹30-40 a kg (₹40-50) cabbage at ₹10/kg (₹15) and cauliflower ₹8-10 per piece (₹15), said a vegetables vendor at Lake Market.

While it is natural for price of summer vegetables to dip as arrivals pick up, however, what is surprising the traders is the fact that even the winter vegetable prices are ruling lower.

“Prices are ruling low because the demand has been slightly subdued. However, we expect demand to start picking up by the end of this month and accordingly prices should also increase,” said Gafur Halder, a vegetable vendor at Garia Adi Bazar.

Published on March 11, 2020

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