Increasing pest attacks and near drought-like conditions prevailing across the State have resulted in the increase in prices of summer season vegetables like cowpea, bitter gourd, cucumber, ash gourd and tuber crops by 50-130 per cent over last year's prices.
The extended dry spell in the State has resulted in yields dwindling significantly while attacks by sucker pests are destroying even the meagre yields, said scientists at Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK).
VFPCK figures for the last three weeks show that price-rise has been as sharp as 40 to 55 per cent in some cases within March, painting a grim picture on the prices front for the dry month of April.
Price of ash gourd, a summer season favourite, went up from Rs.10 last week to Rs.14 on Wednesday. Price of bitter gourd has gone up from Rs.24 on March 8 to Rs.30 on Wednesday. Similarly, cowpea price went up from Rs.32 on March 8 to Rs.36 on Wednesday.
Tuber crop prices hold the biggest surprise as it registered some of the sharpest rises this week. For example, elephant foot yam price on Wednesday was Rs.30 a kg, up from the previous year's level (for the same week) of Rs.14 a kg.
The price of lady's finger has gone up from Rs.22 a kg on March 8 to Rs.30 on Wednesday. The price of beans too has shown sharp appreciation soaring to Rs.40 a kg on Wednesday from the early March level of Rs.35 a kg.
Market sources said that though the prices appeared to ease over the last two days, the short-term outlook is for higher prices as the season gets hotter and water scarcer.
Vegetable buyers in Ernakulam, who depend on major markets like Ottanchathram and Mettuppalayam, have reported that yields are low in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh because of the dry weather conditions.
VFPCK price figures also indicate that though there may be some easing of prices in the wholesale market on a day-to-day basis, they are not reflected in the retail market.
Increasing attacks by sucker pests—ephid, hoppers, white flies, thrips, mites and jassid, is also the result of the dry condition prevailing in the State for nearly six months now, said VFPCK sources.