There is no regulatory mechanism in place to control the prices of essential commodities such as rice, oil, pulses and meats. As a result, their prices are prone to fluctuations and rises. Since there are many products, with just as many producers, even putting such a mechanism in place is difficult, experts say.

Every year, the State government fixes the minimum support price for paddy and sugarcane. This forms the base for fixing of rates at mills and later at wholesale markets. Retail prices however, vary based on transportation costs and handling, wastages and overheads.

A. Chandriah, president of Madras Chillies Merchants Association, said merchants in the open market at the locality where the produce was sourced, decided on the wholesale price based on the demand. “We add transportation costs to the rate. At the retail market, the produce is sold for at least 10 per cent higher than our cost,” he said.

While K. Mohan, a wholesale merchant suggested a committee be formed with farmers, traders and agriculture department officials as a price monitoring agency, S. Chandresan president of TN Food Grains Merchants Association suggested the export of commodities such as paddy and wheat be controlled to regulate prices here.