New Delhi

There has been a 15-60 per cent increase in farm gate prices of nine out of 10 key vegetables in January this year although the norm in winter months is depressed market sentiment. This has resulted in high retail rates of all vegetables, except potato, across the country – minimum ₹40/kg for any vegetable in the national capital region of Delhi.

“With the arrival of fresh crops from January 2024 onwards, vegetable inflation is expected to moderate in the near term. In fact, the average retail prices of tomato and onion so far as of January 22 were at a three-month low of ₹32.40/kg and ₹38.70/kg, respectively. However, the low base effect would keep the vegetables inflation in double-digit,” said Paras Jasrai, a senior analyst with India Ratings & Research.

Terming the higher vegetable inflation in December (27.6 per cent) as mainly due to base effect (-15.1 per cent in December 2022), Jasrai said that there was a sequential uptick in the average retail prices of onion and tomato due to supply side disruptions in key producing states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh which had witnessed below normal rainfall this year.

Anil K Sood, professor and co-founder of The Institute for Advanced Studies in Complex Choices, saw a similar trend in 2018 and 2019. He said that the last such large decline (-16.4 per cent) was recorded in December 2018 and vegetable inflation in December 2019 was up 60.5 per cent. In addition to the base effect, vegetable price inflation is also caused by erratic rainfall during monsoon, Sood added.

According to businessline analysis (from Agmarket portal) of 10 key vegetables – cauliflower, brinjal, cabbage, tomato, french beans, cucumber, carrot, green peas, bottle gourd and green banana – the all India average mandi (farm gate) price of only cucumber dropped this January (1-22) from year-ago whereas there was 15-60 per cent jump in others. Kerala has not been included in the year-ago data as there could be some error in reporting.

Brinjal’s average price across the country was ₹2,228/quintal in January 1-22 in agriculture market yards (mandis), up by 60.4 per cent from ₹1,389/quintal year-ago, whereas the average rate of carrot was up by 14.7 per cent to ₹1,494/quintal from $1,303/quintal.

“In winter, cauliflower used to be ₹10-20/kg till last year. But today it is not available below ₹40/kg. Brinjal too is not available below ₹40-50/kg. I go to the weekly haat (market) after 9pm to buy vegetables slightly cheaper,” said Abhishek Maurya, a security guard in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

Market experts said that there is a shift in vegetable production pattern in various farm belts in the NCR. “Most of the farmers harvested early crops of leafy and seasonal vegetables resulting in price crash in early part of winter. With onset of severe weather conditions and lesser sunshine for last one month has resulted in lower production e of seasonal and leafy veggies this year,” said Varun Khurana, founder and CEO of online B2C platform Otipy, which operates in Delhi NCR and Mumbai.

As of now, an upward trend is visible in coconut, pomegranate and some early summer crops like okra (bhindi), bottle gourd (lauki) and cucumber (kheera).