With serious slump in production because of water scarcity, the price of vegetables is spiking in Tiruchi region. Prices of most of the vegetables are ruling high. Beans leads the pack commanding a price of Rs. 100 a kg in wholesale market and Rs. 110 in retail (see chart). Prices of a few vegetables are ruling four times what was prevalent in the beginning of the year and twice that of last month.

According to official sources, the production was just 50 per cent of the normal times. “While there have been no rains for quite some time, even the well irrigation has become a question mark with water table depleting,” they said.

While small onion is raised on 3,000 hectares of land, other vegetables including brinjal, tomato, snake gourd, and drum sticks are raised on 500 hectares, lime on 1,000 hectares, and chillies on 2,000 hectares.

Several belts in the district, including Vaiyampatti, Uppiliapuram (Botherpettai), Thuraiyur, Thottiyam, Andanallur, and Manigandam are vegetable growing areas. Of them, Vaiyampatty is the leading producer.

Against the normal rainfall of 800 mm, this region recorded only around 500 mm last year. In the past four months also, there has not been any rain there. This region is home to brinjal and tomato. Besides, it raises ladies finger, snake gourd, bottle gourd, hyacinth beans, ridge gourd, and bitter gourd.

In January, the commission mandis at Vaiyampatty were selling snake gourd at Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 a kg, brinjal Rs. 15 to 18 a kg, ladies finger Rs. 10 to 12, and hyacinth beans Rs. 20 to 22. Tomato, which is sold in boxes of 15 kg, was Rs. 18 to Rs. 22 a kg

Even then the production was said to be poor but the prices remained normal thanks to good arrivals at the Tiruchi market from various other places, including Karnataka and the Nilgiris. The situation is now bad, says U.S. Karuppiah, president, Tiruchi Gandhi Market Merchants’ Unity Association.

He points out that beans was ruling around Rs. 30 a kg last month. Tomato was quoted around Rs. 20 a kg, snake gourd Rs. 15 to Rs. 20, ladies finger Rs. 20, small onion Rs. 40, ridge gourd Rs. 15 to Rs. 20, and brinjal Rs. 20.

In just a matter of a month, prices have shot up because the production has plummeted everywhere.

“Beans is the worst hit. We used to get this from Pannakkadu (Kodaikanal) and Oddanchattiram. At present, Tiruchi market gets only 10 per cent of what it has been getting all along. That is why its price has shot up at least by 300 per cent,” he says.

How about the other markets that have been feeding the Tiruchi market? “We get vegetables from Oddanchatiram, Aandipatti, and Theni markets also. But drought has impacted each and every market. Apart from poor rains, power scarcity has hurt pumping and hence farmers are unable to save the crops that they have raised,” he says.

V.N. Kannadasan, president, English Vegetables Commission Mandis Association, says that the price of almost every “English vegetable” like beans, carrot, beetroot, cabbage, and so on has shot up by 100 per cent in a month. “It is because of production shortage which is the direct result of poor rains,” he said.

Mr. Karuppiah however strikes a note of optimism. “Even if there are a couple of spells of showers, all the standing crops would survive and the production would go up thus bringing down the prices,” he added.