Poor inflow of vegetables from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh

Beans, carrot, chilli, small onion and many other vegetables are still costly. Topping the price chart is beans. A kg of beans was until recently sold at over Rs. 100 a kg. The current price in the wholesale MGR Market is around Rs. 90 a kg.

A. Abdul Azeez, Secretary, Kovai Mavatta Motha Anaithu Kaikari Vyabarigal Sangam (wholesale vegetable traders’ association), said that the current price was at least Rs. 50 a kg more than what it used to be a year ago.

A kilogram of tomato was sold at Rs. 25 a kg, which was at least Rs. 10 more than the normal price. A kilogram of small onion was priced around Rs. 45 a kg, which was at least Rs. 30 more.

Mr. Azeez added that the increase in price also held good for potato, big onion, carrot, cabbage, drum stick, chilli and other so called English vegetables.

The increase had to do with poor inflow of vegetables from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where because of the impact of poor South West Monsoon the yield was below normal. “The Coimbatore market is getting only 25 per cent of what it usually gets from the aforementioned States.”

The story of country vegetables or nattu kaikari is no different.

Even here, Mr. Azeez said, the share of vegetables from fields in Coimbatore and neighbouring areas had come down. It stood at 10 per cent. In all probability the inflow of vegetables would come down in the coming days as the vegetables would be diverted to the local markets there and if that were to happen, Coimbatore could expect a further increase in price, predicted A. Subramani, a wholesale vegetable vendor.

Retail vendors said that the upper middle class had started buying vegetables after inquiring about the price and that too not based on requirement.  On the days the prices of beans crossed Rs. 130 a kg, ginger Rs. 134 a kg, and coriander leaves Rs. 100 a kg, their sales were reduced.

The increase in prices meant that the people from the low income group also reduced their consumption. From a family of eight adults, 38-year old Valli, who worked as a domestic help, said that in a week, the family consumed approximately 25 kg vegetables.

“A quarter kg of green vegetables is almost Rs. 20.  We cannot cater for our family without a minimum of half-a-kg of vegetables for a meal.  A bundle of greens is Rs. 10.  At least a minimum of Rs. 100 is needed for a day's vegetables,” she rued.

For grocers like S.P. Muthukumar, proprietor of Mahalakshmi Store in a gated community, the search for quality vegetables at affordable price meant travel to Ukkadam and Saibaba Colony markets.  Substandard quality vegetables only attracted more wastage and hence he chose to spend a little more for quality ones that his customers preferred.

Restaurant owners and roadside food vendors are not spared, either. Mani Shankar Kumar of Lakshmi Sankar Mess said that it was hard for him to buy country vegetables at the farmers’ market in R.S. Puram. “I am unable to spot in sufficient quantities gourds, ladyfinger, cluster beans and other vegetables. And if they arrive in the market, the quantity is negligible.

“It was only recently that I revised the price and now I’m planning for a marginal increase.” While restaurants were able to pass on price rise to their customers, the roadside eateries were not, said V. Arjunan, who runs a mess and an evening snack stall in Pappanaickenpalayam.

While increase in food items was unavoidable and acceptable, what troubled people like him was the frequent fluctuation. The price rise had eroded his profit margin by 30 to 35 per cent in the last couple of days.

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