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After erratic monsoon, crop damage, vegetable prices zoom on supply squeeze

After a drought in Maharashtra and Gujarat reduced output last year, unseasonal rainfall this year has damaged crop; no respite in sight for consumers

Dilip Kumar Jha  |  Mumbai 

Currently, DBT is given to fertiliser companies who sell at a subsidised rate to farmers

The price of vegetables shot up sharply in the past month on reduced supply from major cultivating regions, as unseasonal rainfall early this year, after last year’s deficient rainfall, led lower acreage.

The wholesale price of cauliflower in Delhi jumped 50 per cent to Rs 22.50 a kg on Wednesday, compared with Rs 15 a kg a month earlier. Similarly, cabbage price in the Mumbai wholesale mandi shot up 122 per cent to Rs 20 a kg from Rs 9 a kg on April 8. Green peas have been selling at Rs 45-50 a kg in wholesale mandis, against Rs 30-35 a kg a month ago.

The sharp increase in wholesale prices of vegetables has forced retailers to also raise their selling prices. In Mumbai and suburbs, for example, almost all varieties of vegetables have been selling at Rs 80 a kg or higher.

“Vegetable supply from remote Maharashtra has been lower this year, thanks to a production decline after a drought last year. There is a huge water shortage across major vegetable-growing regions of Maharashtra and Gujarat, where remained erratic last season. So, wholesalers are having to depend on vegetable supply from outside the state which is resulting in lower availability and elevated prices. This situation is likely to continue for a couple of months until the next rainfall begins,” says Anil Chavan, secretary, Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), Mumbai.

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Arrivals of fresh vegetables has declined significantly over the past month. The arrival of bitter gourd in Mumbai APMC, for instance, declined to 17 tonnes on May 8, compared with 64 tonnes a month earlier. Of late, however, stockists have started taking advantage of the current price hike to boost their supply in mandis.

After erratic monsoon, crop damage, vegetable prices zoom on supply squeeze

“Farmers from other regions, including South and the North Indian states, have started filling the supply gap. But, the accumulative supply of vegetables is inadequate to meet consumer demand,” says Sanjay Bhujbal, a vegetable wholesaler in Vashi APMC.

Overall acreage of winter vegetable crops was lower due to an unavailability of moisture in fields in most parts of Vidarbha, Marathwada, Sangli and other districts of Maharashtra. Farmers used standing crop as fodder to protect lives of animals there. Besides, unseasonal rainfall and hailstorms in January-February damaged standing crop. That further deteriorated vegetable supply in western Indian states.

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Scorching summer heat in April and May has resulted in a high percentage of spoilage in cold storages.

Apart from green vegetables, the prices of additives, onions and potatoes have also jumped sharply in the past month. Potato prices have jumped by 31 per cent to Rs 8.50 a kg in the Delhi wholesale mandi. Onion prices, which started rising a month earlier, have now stabilised at a higher level in wholesale mandis, but retail onion prices in Mumbai have risen by 33 per cent in a month to Rs 20 a kg on Wednesday.

First Published: Wed, May 08 2019. 18:22 IST