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High Vegetable Prices Hit Household Budgets During Ongoing Navratri

Household budgets are once again feeling the pinch as vegetable prices have been rising rapidly over the past few weeks for a variety of reasons. For those observing the Navratri fast, the bigger-than-expected rise in prices of tomatoes, potatoes, green leafy vegetables and most root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots could not have come at a worse time.

Ayushi Raina
Vegetable Vendor selling vegetables
Vegetable Vendor selling vegetables

Household budgets have been badly hit as vegetable costs have risen dramatically in recent weeks for a number of reasons. The larger-than-expected increase in costs of tomatoes, potatoes, green leafy vegetables, and most root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots could not have come at a worse time for those observing the Navratri fast.

"Rising vegetable prices are not uncommon following the monsoon, but what is different this time is a combination of factors, including high diesel prices, which have contributed 10-15% to the increase in cost," says Adeel Ahmad Khan, chairman of the Azadpur Mandi Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee.

Most vegetables that grow below the soil or near to the ground, such as onion, garlic, tomato, potato, spinach, fenugreek, mustard, and coriander, have lower arrivals at the mandi and higher costs. This is happening at a time when the market typically provides a plethora of leafy vegetable alternatives to customers.

The late withdrawal of the monsoon this year, after bouts of severe rains in parts of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, resulting in water-logging in the fields, has caused significant damage to vegetable crops in particular. Vegetables from these states, as well as those cultivated in and around Delhi, meet the demand in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The arrivals of most vegetables in the Azadpur Mandi, Asia's largest wholesale market for fruits and vegetables are now down by 30 to 35 percent. 

Azadpur Mandi serves the requirements of most northern states, and also that of traders from across the country as well as the exporters. In the case of most green vegetables, the arrivals deficit is approximately 50%.

Mahender Sanpal, president of the Delhi Vegetable Traders Association said "while prices for all vegetables have risen, in certain cases. It has nearly doubled in the last three weeks." "For example, palak (spinach), which was selling in the mandi for Rs.10 per kg around 20 days ago, is now selling for Rs.50 per kg. Tomato prices have climbed from Rs.5-20 to Rs.40-50, and retail costs in most localities now exceed over Rs.70 per kg," adds Sanpal.

In the instance of onions, Khan claims that mandi prices have risen by Rs.6-7 per kg from previous levels of Rs.20-25 per kg, while retail prices in some markets have surpassed Rs.50 per kg. The new onion crop has yet to be released to the market. Currently, NCR is receiving supplies from Nashik storage. According to market experts, increased transportation expenses owing to high diesel prices are increasing delivery costs.

The scarcity scenario is expected to last another 20 days before fresh harvests from farmer-replanted fields arrive. Tomato prices may take longer to fall. The one positive aspect is that there has been no decrease in the arrival of fruits, which has helped to keep their prices stable.

Another matter is that fruit prices in the last two years have been significantly higher than in prior years.

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