Vegetarians had to bear the brunt of rising inflation in July mainly since tomato prices soared 233 per cent compared with its rates in June. In addition, they had to pay more for onions — prices up 16 per cent — and potatoes, whose rates were up 9 per cent month-on-month.

Research agency Crisil, which has come out with a monthly indicator of the cost of a plate of food prepared at home, said while the price of vegetarian thali (plate) increased by 28 per cent in July to ₹33.7 (₹26.3 in June), that of non-vegetarian plate was up by 11 per cent at ₹66.8 (₹60). 

Up 3rd month in a row

“The cost of a thali rose sequentially for the third month in a row in July, and also inched up on-year for the first time this fiscal, mainly due to soaring tomato prices,” the agency said. 

According to data from the Consumer Affairs Ministry, tomato prices increased to ₹173 a kg from ₹80 between June 30 and July 31 in Delhi. In Kolkata, the prices soared to ₹195 from ₹105 and from ₹88 to ₹187 in Chennai during the period. 

During the same period, onion prices increased to ₹30 a kg from ₹28 in Delhi, ₹30 from ₹27 in Kolkata and ₹27 from ₹21 in Chennai. Potato prices went up to ₹27 from ₹24 in Delhi and from ₹26 to ₹28 in Chennai. “Of the 34 per cent rise in the cost of a vegetarian thali, 25 per cent can be attributed solely to the price of tomato ...,” Crisil said.

Impact of rains

Sraboni Haralalka, Executive Director at Wodehouse Capital Advisors Pvt Ltd, said the spike in commodity prices, particularly essential food supplies, was due to the impact of uneven rains across the country. “We expect the commodity prices to remain escalated for the coming few months before we see a cool-off,” she said, adding that sowing of paddy, pulses and oilseeds has also been affected either due to excessive precipitation or delay in rains reaching certain key regions such as the eastern parts of the country. 

Crisil said chili and cumin (jeera) also became more expensive, their prices rising 69 per cent and 16 per cent on-month, respectively, in July. “However, given the lower quantities of these ingredients used in a thali, their cost contribution remains lower than some of the vegetable crops,” it said. 

Chili and cumin have been affected by unseasonal rains in February and excess heat in March with the crops suffering ahead of the harvest on the farms. For August, rising turmeric and dhaniya (coriander) prices could add to consumers’ woes. 

Slower rise of non-veg

The cost of a non-vegetarian thali rose at a slower pace than the vegetarian plate as the price of broilers, comprising more than 50 per cent of the cost, likely declined 3-5 per cent month-on-month in July.

The research agency said a 2 per cent month-on-month decline in the price of vegetable oil provided some respite from the increase in cost of vegetarian and non-vegetarian plates.

During December 2022-April 2023, softening tomato, onion and edible oil prices resulted in the price of a vegetarian plate dropping to ₹25 (April). During the same period, non-vegetarian plate prices too slid to below ₹59 to ₹58.6 (March). 

Crisil’s veg thali comprises roti, vegetables (onion, tomato, and potato), rice, dal, curd, and salad. For a non-vegetarian thali, chicken is taken into consideration instead of dal.