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Shaswati Das, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 05, 2013
Prakash Ram sells rajma-rice from his mobile cart in the business hub of Nehru Place in south Delhi. And he does roaring business for his single plate of rajma-rice is usually enough for two at a measly sum of Rs. 35. But not any more.
The skyrocketing prices of vegetables, especially tomatoes, have hit him hard, forcing him into shrinking the portions of the plate. Now that plate of rajma-rice is just about enough for one.

“The most important ingredient required for cooking rajma is tomato, followed by onion. I used to buy tomatoes for Rs. 25-30 till mid-June. Now I pay thrice as much. I can’t increase my prices as I’ll stop getting customers. The only option I have is to reduce the portions. I can’t cut down on tomatoes as the food will taste bad,” he said.

And Ram isn’t alone. Small food outlets across the city are doing the same to bear with the rising food prices.

While food chains and bigger restaurants have not yet curtailed the quantity of food served or increased prices, small-scale businesses have begun to cut down on the quantity and marginally increase the price. So a plate of momos that would earlier cost Rs. 45 now costs Rs. 47 as the chutney requires tomatoes.

While customers are feeling short-changed, vendors say there’s little they can do about it.

“We serve everything from South Indian to Chinese. And each dish requires tomatoes, capsicum and onions. Even if we use less capsicum, using fewer tomatoes will spoil the dish. So we have been forced to increase the prices by R2-3 per dish. The customers are unhappy, but we can’t compromise on the quality of food,” said Kamal Singh, who runs a multi-cuisine van in Vasant Kunj.