With lorry operators demanding a revision in freight charges to match the fuel price hike, people are bracing themselves for another round of increase in the price of essential commodities.

Retail prices of most items, including vegetables, are showing an upward trend. Tomato and green chilli have seen an exponential rise in price over the past one week.

While the retail price of tomato went up from Rs.24 a kg to Rs.30, green chilli now costs Rs.40 from Rs.24 last week.

Retailers at the Chala market maintain that it is supply shortage caused by floods in Tamil Nadu early this month that has been creating volatile vegetable prices for the past few weeks.

“I guess we will have to do away with the expensive items”, says Lilly Michael, a retired teacher.

Lorry operators from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are yet to declare a freight charge hike.

“They have proposed a 30 per cent increase but we are yet to open negotiations,” says Peringamala Ramachandran, district president of the Kerala Vyapara Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi.

Some pulses merchants, however, claim that their latest consignments have seen an increase in freight charge by at least 23 per cent. They say they have no option but to pass on the excess charge on to the consumer.

Rice from Andhra is unlikely to see any major price hike since Railways did not hike the freight tariff. Mr. Ramachandran says the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation's licensing norms , was making it difficult for the dealers to stock rice, pulses and edible oil. “This is creating supply problems.”

Prices of most items are expected to go up by the beginning of next week, by which the Lorry Owners' Association plans to implement the hike.

“The prices of tyres and batteries have gone up. Now that fuel prices have gone up too, we are going to settle for nothing less than a 25 per cent increase in freight charges,” says T. Ramachandran, a member of the association.