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Rising prices of food articles pinch common man

Forget the season's exotic vegetables, even the common potato, tomato and onion are now beyond the common man's reach.

delhi Updated: Nov 06, 2009 16:42 IST

Forget the season's exotic vegetables, even the common potato, tomato and onion are now beyond the common man's reach.

According to official data on select commodities, prices of food articles have gone up by more than 13 percent in the last one year: potato prices have doubled while that of pulses have gone up by over 23 percent on an average.

Another concern is the rising prices of pulses, with arhar and moong touching a high of Rs.90 per kilogram.

For many, it's becoming a nightmare stretching the household budget, and have been forced to make do with consuming lesser quantities.

"Prices of vegetables are very high and it is affecting our household expenses. We are vegetarians and face even more problems," said Roshi, 56, a housewife in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.

"I worry that because of lower intake of vegetables, the health of my family will be affected," she added.

Potatoes are selling at Rs.20-30 per kilogram and onions are selling at Rs.18-24 per kilogram.

Said Bindu Jain, 40, a Kolkata housewife: "Prices of some vegetables like cauliflower have started coming down since the past one week. But basic vegetables like tomatoes and onions are still very costly."

In Kolkata, potatoes are going for Rs.22 a kilogram, tomatoes for Rs.25 a kilogram and onions for Rs.30.

For many people from low-income households, the government-regulated shops are not of much help either.

"I cannot afford buying food articles at even controlled price shops like Mother Dairy (government regulated outlets). So I buy vegetables daily after walking two kilometres to a wholesale vendor," said Kishan Chand, a slum dweller in south Delhi.

Even as the government admitted to increase in price of food articles by more than 13 percent over the past year, authorities say they are trying to slash wholesale rates.

Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) officials said things are likely to improve in the coming weeks.

"The crops were expected to stabilize in anticipations of monsoon but unfortunately it did not happen," said S. Yadav, an APMC official.

"The potato crop was destroyed in West Bengal, which accounts for 30 percent of the total supply (to the national capital). North India had to supply it, which resulted in a rise in potato prices in the region," Yadav explained.

According to him, with fresh potato supply from Punjab, wholesale prices fell in Delhi by Rs.3 in the past week.

However, onion prices soared -- primarily due to crop failure in Karnataka and Maharasthra -- but Yadav said the winter crop would help stabilise the situation.

Within a week, he added, tomato prices could also fall in Delhi with supplies coming in from neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, which would cut transport costs.

In the past few months, Delhi had to meet its requirement with supplies from far-off Maharashtra.

"The current wholesale price of Rs.24 per kg will fall to Rs.12-14 per kg," Yadav said.

Incidentally, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar recently said it was unlikely prices would ease in the next three months and that the situation would improve only when rabi crops are harvested early next summer.