Vaiyampatty, the vegetable hub of Tiruchi district, is facing a strange situation of poor arrivals and stable prices .

Against the normal 800 mm rainfall, the region received only about 500 mm last year, official sources said. There is not much water for well irrigation too . The area, which has about 200 hectares under vegetable coverage now, might hardly see half of it during summer, they apprehend. “Already the yield has started declining to an extent of 20 per cent”.

Vaiyampatty, Manapparai, and Marungapuri are the three major vegetable growing areas in the district.

With regard to Vaiyampatty, while brinjal and tomato are the main crops, the region also raises ladies finger, snake gourd ( pudalankai), bottle gourd (suraikai), hyacinth beans (avarai), rich gourd (peerkangkai), and bitter gourd (pakarkai). A.Anthonisamy, 39-year-old farmer, who owns about five acres and has been raising vegetables for the past more than a decade, laments that he is able to get three-phase power supply only for three hours a day which is not sufficient to irrigate even one acre. “Micro-irrigation does not suit us. Vegetable farmers cannot remain away from the field even for a day as they have to harvest on alternate days. In spite of all the strain that we take, we do not get remunerative prices and the price fluctuation is very bad at times,” he rues.

About 15 villages around Vaiyampatty including Aiyalur, Kuppanur, Kalluppatty, Karungulam, Ponnaniyar Dam, Edayapatti, Alathur, Kadavur, and Servukaranpatty bring their produce to the 10 commission mandis at Vaiyampatty. From there, the Oddanchattiram market, the major one in the southern region, and the Tiruchi market pick up the produce.

And these mandis, who handle about 30 tonnes of vegetables a day, reveal a strange trend.

The demand and supply theory does not hold good here. When the arrivals are less, the prices should have gone up. “While the arrivals have been dwindling, prices are more or less steady,” observes P.Venkataraman, who has been running a commission mandi for the past 25 years. The arrivals during this season, December to March, used to be good. ” But this year, as against the normal two to three tonnes a day, “we don’t even receive 50 per cent,” he points out.

This is endorsed by A.Arulappan, another commission agent.

While snake gourd is quoted around Rs.10-12 a kg, brinjal is sold around Rs.15 -18, ladies finger Rs.10 -12 and hyacinth beans Rs.20-22. Tomato, which is sold in boxes of 15 kg, is quoted around Rs.18-22 a kg now.

“Normal price of green chilli, snake gourd and rich gourd is only around Rs.10 a kg here. Whenever there is rain, the yield of tomato is high and hence the prices used to fluctuate.”

Mr.Venkataraman is unhappy that rain is playing havoc with the vegetable market this year.

But, interestingly, both of them say that the prices have not gone up much. “ Comparing the last January price, the current market prices are actually less .” “It is probably because the people do not have the purchasing power,” Mr.Venkataraman observes.

Official sources said that the only reason for such a strange situation could be that the arrivals from other areas, especially Andhra Pradesh, should have been so high that the prices have been kept under check. But they are not sure whether a spike in prices could be prevented during summer.