With the Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) and the Bombay High Court did it for Mumbai, costlier vegetables and sweets have done their bit to destroy the festival mood ahead of Diwali.
Following the apex court's verdict banning the sale of firecrackers across the NCR late last week, the Bombay HC ordered similar ban in Mumbai this week. The courts' verdicts have invited a nationwide debate in favour and against the ban.
To make the Diwali cheerless, vegetables and sweets have become costlier by around 35 per cent. While sweets have become costlier due to spurt in sugar price and labour cost, intermittent rainfall over the last one week have made vegetables costlier.
"The goods and services tax (GST) on sweets is as high as 28 per cent, forcing us to raise prices. The tax burden that the government has levied on us will have to be passed on to consumers, making sweets costlier this festive season," said Ramesh Soni, owner of Bikaner Sweets and Farsan.
Kaju Katli is selling at Rs 800 a kg, up 33 per cent from Rs 600 a kg last year. Similarly, sweets sellers are selling laddus and malai barfi at Rs 200 a kg and Rs 500 a kg, an increase of 25 per cent over the past one year in both categories.
Interestingly, sweet making raw materials have not risen in similar proportion. Data compiled by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Foods and Public Distribution showed sugar prices in the wholesale markets hovering around Rs 40 a kg, a marginal increase of 6.7 per cent over the last one year. Sugar in the retail market, according to the Union ministry, is quoted higher by a mere 5 per cent to trade at Rs 42 a kg. The ministry showed milk and wheat price rise of 5.6 per cent and 5.9 per cent to Rs 38 a litre (in pack) and Rs 18 a kg respectively. Wheat flour prices have also surged by 11 per cent to trade at Rs 25 a kg in retail markets, data compiled by the Ministry of Food showed.
"Owing to the delay in return of the monsoon this year, it is very difficult to start harvesting of sugarcane to commence crushing season in the second week of October in Uttar Pradesh as promised by mills. The scenario in Maharashtra is no different. Hence, sugar prices are likely to remain firm in the next three-four weeks," said Praful Vithalani, Chairman, All India Sugar Trade Association (AISTA).
Meanwhile, continuous rainfall for the last one week has left deep mud in the field resulting into difficulties in harvesting of vegetables. Therefore, farmers have halted harvesting of vegetables amid fear of quality deterioration and high spoilage due to too much of moisture in them.
Data compiled by the government owned National Horticulture Board (NHB) showed brinjal round to have become costlier by 39 per cent to trade currently at Rs 25 a kg in the wholesale Vashi Agriculture Produce Markets Committee (APMC) mandi. Similarly, cauliflower has become deared by 72 per cent in just one week to trade currently at Rs 31 a kg in wholesale Vashi mandi. Similar price rise have been reported across all other vegetables on supply squeeze.
"There has been a drastic decline in vegetable supplies to mandis due to rains across major producing centres. Farmers are reluctant over harvesting due to fear of spoilage. Consumers would have to live with high vegetables prices for at least two-three weeks," said Shri Ram Gadhave, President, Vegetables Grower Association of India.