For small lorries, transport cost is likely to increase by at least Rs. 5,000

The message from the wholesale and retail vegetable traders in Coimbatore is clear – expect a 10 to 15 per cent increase in vegetable prices soon. The traders also say that the impact will be more pronounced in big onion for other reasons as well.

Coimbatore, on an average, gets around 1,000 to 1,300 tonnes vegetables a day from neighbouring districts, Salem, Krishnagiri, southern Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, northern Karnataka and Maharashtra as well. Fifty per cent of the vegetables go to Kerala, and the city and its surrounding areas consume the rest.

It also gets a few vegetables from places within the district. But the impact of diesel price hike is likely to be negligible because of the relatively shorter distance.

The city gets a majority of the ‘English’ vegetables like carrot, beans, cabbage, etc. from southern Karnataka, particularly Chamaraja Nagar and Hassan. It gets chilli from areas around Hassan and also Andhra Pradesh. Given the distance and the Rs. 5-a-litre increase, there is bound to be an increase, says A. Subramani, secretary, Kovai Mavatta Anna Motha Kaikari Vyaparigal Sangam, MGR Market.

The traders or sellers despatch the vegetables in small or big lorries based on the order. The small or mini lorries transport up to 15 tonnes and the big ones up to 20 tonnes. For the small lorries the transport cost is likely to increase by at least Rs. 5,000 to around Rs. 40,000. And for the big ones by the same amount to around Rs. 50,000, he says.

The city is dependent on Karnataka for the vegetables because the vegetable supply from Ooty is way below the demand. And another reason is that over the years, the cultivation area has declined there and so has the produce, says M. Rajendra, a vegetable vendor at T.K. Market. Notwithstanding any other factor, the diesel price rise alone will increase the transport cost by at least 10 per cent, says S.F. Abdul Althaf, president, Kovai Mavatta Anna Motha Kaikari Vyaparigal Sangam, MGR Market. This will push up the wholesale price and consequently, vegetable prices.

But the biggest impact will be on big onion as the sowing area in Karnataka and Maharashtra has come down because of poor monsoon, says C.N. Palanisamy, president of a wholesale traders’ association. At present, the price is around Rs. 10-a-kg. It will increase 100 per cent by Deepavali and go up further as the demand increases. Mr. Palanisamy says that there will be a similar impact on potato because the cultivation is again in the North and areas there have suffered not-so-good monsoon.

Secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause K. Kathirmathiyon said the diesel price hike would have a cascading effect on all sections. “Food at not only hotels, but also at home will turn costly,” he said. “People are already reeling under inflation. The latest hike will inflict more agony on them,” Limiting the number of subsidised LPG refills to six a year was highly irrational. Even a medium-sized family required 12 refills a year. The power shortage had already made it nearly impossible to use electrical cooking appliances. People would have to rely on LPG, especially those who did not have a kerosene quota on the family card. The price they have to pay would be heavy. “This is a ‘you-have-to-live-with-it’ view taken by the Government, he said.

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