In the last 15 days, the prices of potatoes and tomatoes have shot up

Rising food prices, a nationwide phenomenon though, affect the States in different ways, depending on their location and agronomic and logistical issues.

But the biting end is the soaring vegetable prices that strongly influence day-to-day consumer sentiments across the income spectra, as much as the price of fruits, eggs or milk does.

Fears of a deficient monsoon, further shocks in the prices of petroleum products that have a cost-push effect on inflation, and what the new BJP government’s first budget will have in store for the people add to the common pool of sentiments, boosting or sagging aam aadmi’s morale.

A quick reality check across Tamil Nadu shows there is very little heartening about vegetable prices. Just sample these disconcerting changes in the prices of vegetables without which your plate is hardly full.

In the last 15 days, the prices of potatoes and tomatoes have shot up, denting household budgets in Madurai. “Country tomatoes now cost between Rs.36 and Rs.40 a kg, while they went for just Rs.20 till two weeks ago,” says K. Arumugam, Agriculture Officer at the Bibikulam Uzhavar Sandhai.

While the price of small onions has gone up to Rs.22 a kg, the larger ones go for Rs.18. Potatoes are no cheaper in Madurai, ranging from Rs.24 to Rs.26 a kg, up by Rs. 6-Rs.8 in the last fortnight.

“In retail outlets and supermarkets, vegetable prices are even higher,” complains P. Kala, a resident of Chinna Chokkikulam. The retailers price them at least 20-30 per cent more than the rates at Uzhavar Sandhai and the Mattuthavani (wholesale) vegetable market.

While in the Tiruchi Gandhi market, prices of most vegetables have been oscillating over a thin band of Rs.2 a kg, tomato prices are still higher.

“In the past one week, there has been a steady rise in the prices of onions, tomatoes and potatoes,” says K. Chandra, a homemaker in Coimbatore. This despite the city’s proximity to a major growers’ market in The Nilgiris.

A dip in vegetable cultivation and the lack of sufficient cold storage are among the reasons cited for this trend. But in areas where horticulture is good, produce fly to more urbanised markets such as Bangalore and Chennai.

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