Soaring prices of onions and potatoes have added to the seasonal inflation of vegetables. While the mandi price of potato is up by 91 per cent year-on-year, that of onion has more than doubled. Unlike last year, the Government is yet to announce a market intervention scheme to ease prices for consumers.

According to mandi (agriculture market yard) data maintained by Agmarknet, the weighted average pan-India price of potato was ₹2,194/quintal this month against ₹1,146/quintal a year ago and that of onion was ₹2,659/quintal against ₹1,230/quintal. But tomato prices were lower by 53 per cent at ₹3,507/quintal from ₹7,391/quintal.

Consumer Affairs Ministry data show average retail prices of potato at ₹36/kg and onion at ₹44/kg and they were 52 per cent and 65 per cent higher on July 9 from levels a year ago, respectively. Though tomato was 41 per cent lower at ₹62/kg on July 9, the rate is nearly double from ₹33/kg two months ago.

Among key States, the average retail price of tomato was the highest, ₹72/kg, in Madhya Pradesh and the lowest, ₹43/kg, in Tamil Nadu, onion at ₹46/kg was the highest in Tamil Nadu and the lowest at ₹39/kg in Rajasthan. Potato was the highest in Tamil Nadu and Kerala at ₹50/kg and the lowest at ₹30/kg in Rajasthan and Punjab on July 9, data showed.

Seasonal pattern

However, prices of other vegetables have been mixed which experts attribute to their seasonal characteristics. “July normally sees good rainfall and that disrupts supply chain movement. Transportation of vegetables, being daily needs, need regular movements on roads and the slightest of disruption inflate the rates,”said SK Singh, an agriculture scientist.

The first week of this month witnessed 40 per cent surplus rains after the monsoon gathered momentum in all regions from the last week of June. Heavy rainfall continues in many parts, leading to a disruption in supplies, Singh said.

Prices of pumpkin and capsicum are higher this month than the year-ago period. But prices of vegetables such as cabbage, brinjal, cauliflower, bottle gourd and okra have declined. (see chart)

Concerned over the sharp spike in prices, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on July 9 issued a 10-day deadline to officials to bring down the prices. Noting that there should be a steady supply of potatoes, she wondered how 30 lakh tonnes (lt) of potatoes were lying in cold storage when prices were rising.

“Last year, the Government’s intervention was quick and proactive in tomato because the price rise was sudden and very high. A similar intervention was seen when onion prices surged as the government sold it at ₹25/kg to consumers from mid-August in select places where prices were relatively higher. This year, unfortunately, it is missing,” said a former top official.

The government started selling tomatoes at ₹90/kg in Delhi and adjoining areas from the second week of July 2023 and gradually brought down its retail sales rates as market prices cooled down. The retail market rates touched ₹200/kg in Delhi last year.