As winter stock of vegetables dwindles, the prices of a few of them have begun to show slight variations over the past week. The cost of ginger has begun to touch Rs.100 a kilogram at retail stores in the city, and its wholesale price is currently Rs.80. Tomatoes cost Rs.15 at certain outlets at Connemara Market but their price varies depending on the quality. Murukesh, who runs a retail store at Sasthamangalam, says that the juicier ones now cost between Rs.22 and Rs.25 while the small, local varieties are on sale for less than Rs.15-17.

The price of cluster beans, which also increased since February, is in the Rs.40-Rs.50 range now. “This is noticeable because it had gone down to an all-time of low of Rs.28 a month ago,” said Murukesh. The price of onions, which made many a consumer shed a tear across the country in November 2013, has receded to Rs.20. Kerala was relatively shielded during the time with the price never crossing Rs.55.

The cost of brinjal has also marginally gone up from Rs.15 to Rs.20 now. This, according to vendors, is the sign of an early summer. The wholesale price of potatoes in Chala and Palayam markets is Rs.24 and Rs.26 in retail stores. The cost of okra has also seen an increase from Rs.24 to Rs.30 at stores in Palayam. In some retail stores it costs nearly Rs.40. This is expected to come down once the next harvest arrives in the market, vendors say.

“Considering how hot it already is, we have reason to worry about the next few months. If it rains at least intermittently in April and June, the harvest should not be overly affected,” said K. Shibu, a vendor at Connemara.

Rejitha, a resident of Vattapara, who was shopping at his store in Palayam, says she usually buys from Horticorp stores because of the subsidies they provide, a relief in times of sharp hikes.

Changing needs

Wholesale stores have lost their sheen, Shibu adds, with the government introducing ‘Haritha’ stalls and Horticorp outlets across the city. “It is either that or the small retail stores in their neighbourhoods or the retail giants and supermarkets. Very few come to wholesale markets like Palayam or Chala,” he says, adding that they have long supplemented their stores with ‘non-traditional’ products such as spring onions, chou chou, capsicum, lettuce, red cabbage, and celery to cater to changing market needs.

“A lot of north Indians demand them,” he said, recalling how seven years ago, cultivators in Tamil Nadu had given such items for free in a bid to build a market for them.