Prices of commonly consumed vegetables, such as potatoes and tomatoes, have risen sharply across the country, with major wholesale markets running low on supplies due to disruptions caused heavy rains and lockdowns, apart from lower output of some items and higher fuel costs.
On Tuesday, the average all-India retail price of potatoes stood at Rs 35 a kg, while tomatoes were selling for an average of Rs 55 a kg, up from Rs 20 and Rs 30 on July 1, data from the consumer affairs ministry showed.
Rains and partial or complete lockdown in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Guwahati and Bhopal to contain the spread of Covid-19, have upended supply chains, causing prices of commonly consumed vegetables to spike manifold. Among kitchen staples, households are paying the highest for potatoes and tomatoes. Onion prices are stable or have fallen in some markets due to higher production last winter, officials in wholesale markets said.
A combination of factors is behind the rising prices, traders said. “Farmers in many states dumped perishables during the lockdown, unable to find buyers. So, tomatoes are in short supply. Transportation costs have risen 5-10% because of fuel price hikes by the government,” Maruti Mallale, the proprietor of Mahesh Vegetable Company at Maharashtra’s Vashi said.
At Delhi’s Azadpur wholesale market, during July 13-19, the average wholesale price of potatoes rose 53.5% from a year ago, the sharpest rise in four years, data from the consumer affairs ministry’s Agmarknet tracker showed. During the same period, potato quantity brought for trade dropped 42% in the market. Azadpur is the national capital’s biggest hub for vegetable trade and sets benchmark retail prices across the national capital region. During the same period, tomato prices at the Azadpur market rose 33.9% from a year ago, while its arrival fell 37%.
“Supply of most of the vegetables has been affected. Arrivals in cold storage have been 30% less,” said Anil Chaudhury, an official of Agra Cold Storage Association. This suggests that farmers have grown less potato during 2019-20, he said. Onion prices, on the other hand, have declined. Average prices of onions in the Azadpur market fell 20.9% in the July 13-19 week.