Vegetable prices continue to soar across southern states after rains

Published on Dec 10, 2021 12:51 AM IST

According to the India Meteorological Department, the November rainfall in Tamil Nadu was the highest since 1901, when recording of rainfall started in India.

Local sellers cite damages to crops due to heavy rainfall in November as the reason for the sky-high prices. (HT PHOTO)
Local sellers cite damages to crops due to heavy rainfall in November as the reason for the sky-high prices. (HT PHOTO)
ByHT Correspondents, Chennai/thiruvananthapuram

Vegetable prices continue to soar in most southern states with a kilogram of tomato being sold at 100 and drumstick costing close to 200 per kg, according to local sellers, who cited damages to crops due to heavy rainfall in November as the reason for the sky-high prices.

According to the India Meteorological Department, the November rainfall in Tamil Nadu was the highest since 1901, when recording of rainfall started in India.

In Chennai, most vegetables were being sold for 100 or more, said R Soundararajan, adviser to the Koyambedu Wholesale Vegetable Traders.

He said one kg of tomato in Chennai was selling anywhere between 90 and 120 while a kilo of drumstick was costing around 250. “Beans are being sold at 90, carrot and ladies’ fingers at 80 a kg each in the wholesale market,” he added.

In neighbouring Kerala, a kg of tomato was being sold for 100 and drumstick for up to 200.

“Drumstick, an essential ingredient in sambhar, was one of the cheapest in the market. But now we weigh it like gold. Before Diwali one kg of the vegetable would cost 40 and now it is between 140 and 180,” said P Murugan, a vegetable vendor in Palayam market in the state capital.

He added that in the first week of November, the retail price of tomato was 45 and now it is between 80 and 100 a kg.

Vegetable vendors blame the short supply of produce from neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which weathered heavy rains last month, for the soaring prices. Kerala depends on supply from its neighbour to meet its demand of fruits, vegetables and poultry products.

Farmers said vegetable production in Kerala declined sharply due to unseasonal heavy downpour in the last two months. According to IMD data, Kerala received 3,523.3 mm of rainfall from October 1 to November 24 and it was slightly higher than the 2018 tally of 3,518. 9 mm. The highest rainfall in the state was clocked at 4,257 mm in 1961, IMD said.

Such has been the shortage in the southern states that both Kerala and Tamil Nadu government have started selling vegetables.

With prices of vegetables, particularly tomatoes, soaring due to the northeast monsoon downpour, the Tamil Nadu government began selling tomatoes for 85 to 100 per kg through state-run farm fresh outlets in 12 districts, including Chennai from the last week of November.

The state cooperatives department said in a statement that they are procuring 15 metric tonnes of tomatoes every day for selling through government outlets. In the last week of November, tomatoes had touched 140 a kg in retail markets of Tamil Nadu, which primarily gets tomato supply from two regions in Karnataka and three regions in Andhra Pradesh.

In November second week, the government-controlled Kerala Fruits and Vegetable Promotion Council had intervened in the market by procuring vegetables directly from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, officials said. It resulted in some relief for more than a week and prices came down by 30-40% but it went up again in last two weeks, local residents in Thiruvananthapuram said.

“We know prices again went up. We will make direct procurement from outside and distribute it to outlets to control prices,” said state agriculture minister P Prasad, adding that the Kerala government will take strict action against hoarders and others who engineer price hike.

In Hyderabad, vegetable prices have shot up again this week, after a brief respite early last month. Tomatoes, which were being sold at 42 per kg on November 9, jumped up to 100 per kg in Mehdipatnam Rythu Bazar, a state-run vegetable market, and 120 in open markets on November 19, when the city witnessed heavy rains. On Thursday, tomatoes were again being sold at 80 a kg, though the official rate at the Mehdipatnam Rythu Bazar, still showed 50.

“What is displayed at the Rythu Bazars is the wholesale price. But in the retail market, the prices are at least 20-25% more,” an official at the Rythu Bazar said.

Similarly, the cost of ladies’ fingers on Thursday at the government-fixed rate was 65, but it was being sold at 80 a kg and more in open markets. “In the supermarkets, we have to shell off 100 for a kg of bhindi (ladies’ fingers). Even the quality is not good,” said S Sunitha, a homemaker.

The price of ridge gourd and ivy gourd in the Rythu Bazar on Thursday was 65 per kg, but in the open market, it was being sold for around 80. Same is the case with cluster beans and French beans, which are priced at 65 a kg.

“We have stopped bringing other vegetables like carrot, beet root, bottle gourd and cucumber to the markets, because they are very costly. If there are no takers, we would be put to heavy losses,” said a vegetable vendor at a weekly market in Somajiguda.

In Bengaluru, a kg of tomato would cost anywhere between 98 and 110 even as the wholesale prices of the vegetable stood at 55, said Manan, the manager of fruit and vegetable outlet, Safal.

Prices of several vegetables have come down in the city in recent weeks, the retailer said. “Coriander is being sold at around 30 per bunch, onions at 38 to 45 per kg while ladies’ fingers cost between 88 and 100 per kg,” he said.

(With inputs from bureaus in Bengaluru and Hyderabad)

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