Extreme weather shriveled several crops this year, tomato prices surge 168% YoY
Unseasonal rains also damaged lemon crops during the flowering stage in several states in January and then, a heatwave while March-April harvesting crimped output. In April, prices leapt to unseen levels, reaching up to ₹200 a kilo.
New Delhi: Extreme weather that scientists have linked to climate change has hit output of several crops this year, making fruits and vegetables costlier.
The average retail price of tomatoes, a basic ingredient of most Indian dishes, has surged 70 per cent from a month ago to ₹53.75 a kilogram as on June 2, according to data from the food ministry. This is a 168% increase from a year ago.
Supplies of tomato from states such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, have dwindled during the current lean period.
Unseasonal rains had damaged lemon crops during the flowering stage in several states in January. Then, a heatwave during harvesting in March-April crimped output.
In April, prices of lemons leapt to unseen levels, reaching up to ₹200 a kilo, leaving consumers angry and shocked. Heavy rains had damaged lemon plantings in December-January during its nascent flowering stage.
The average Indian’s grocery bills are rising as consumer inflation quickened to an eight-year high of 7.79% in April from a year ago, driven by food inflation.
India’s output of mango crop, the king of fruits, this summer is estimated to have gone down by 20% due to unfavourable weather.
“The yield in Uttar Pradesh is less by nearly 20% and quality has been affected too,” said Haji Kalimullah Khan, an award-winning mango-breeder known as “Mango Man of India”.
Heavy rains in December-January, when mango trees flower, and early summer, when the crop bears fruit, led to a drop in yield.
“It is now widely agreed by scientists that the number of rainy days will decrease due to the impacts of climate change but total quantum of rainfall will remain same,” said KJ Ramesh, a former chief of the India Meteorological Department.
In March, the hottest summer in 122 years in states such as Punjab trimmed wheat output by an estimated 4.7% to 106 million tonne, prompting India to ban exports last month. The ban fanned prices globally, with Chicago futures rising to a two-month high.
Households have been warned to brace for more inflation, adding to concerns about its impact on the cost of living of the poorest households, which spend almost all of their income on food and other essentials.
The Reserve Bank has raised its inflation forecast, saying it expected inflation to rise sharply to 5.7% in FY23, up from its previous forecast of 4.5%. Food prices in April rose a record 8.38%.
The crisis has been worsened by the war in Ukraine, which has created shortages of wheat, fertilizers, edible oils and animal feed. Edible oil prices have risen between 8-13% year-on.
For India, the first of four Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports to be released over the next 15 months highlighted harder evidence for a changing monsoon, rising seas, deadlier heatwaves, intense storms, flooding and glacial melts.
Risks to agriculture tend to be more acutely felt because they are most visible, but shocks to manufacturing could also be huge, studies have shown
On the other hand, heavy rains in southern states have disrupted food trucks, stoking shortages and prices.
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