The spread of COVID-19 in the last one year has taken a toll on wholesale vegetable trade here.
“We are procuring just 50 % of what the quantity of vegetables that used to come to Coimbatore every day,” says M. Rajendran, president of TK Market wholesale vegetable traders Association.
The wholesale prices of vegetables have fallen and some farmers and traders are unable to realise even the transport cost. For instance, the price of drumstick used to be ₹140 a kg. It is ₹8 to ₹10 a kg now, he says. The farmer should be get at least ₹12 a kg. Vegetable markets here get supplies from Karnataka and different parts of Tamil Nadu. The wholesale price of big onion on Thursday ranged between ₹10 and ₹15 a kg, that of small onion was ₹15 to ₹30 a kg, tomato ₹6 to ₹9 a kg, potato ₹16 a kg and cabbage ₹6 a kg. Except carrot, beans and cauliflower the other vegetables were selling at less than ₹20 a kg in the wholesale market.
With high number of cases in Kerala, the wholesale traders here are unable to supply the usual volume to the neighbouring State. Most of the traders do not take delivery of the pre-Covid quantity. With the second wave of the pandemic in Coimbatore now, if the vegetable markets are shifted, the traders will be hit further, he says.
Amirtharaj, a tomato farmer at Kinathukadavu, says that farmers spend ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh on an acre to harvest tomatoes. This year, the rain was good, there was no problem of pest attack and the harvest was also good. When the farmers take the produce to the markets, the traders lift the vegetables. “But, we do not get the prices. Almost throughout the last one year, we got just ₹100 to ₹300 for a box of 12 to 15 kg. Farmers are unable to meet the expenses with these prices,” he says.
Suresh, secretary of Anna market vegetable traders’ association, says that retail business has taken a hit at the market because of the pandemic, though vegetable prices are low. “We will go back to operating just 50 % of the outlets on a rotation basis from Friday. Many people have taken to selling vegetables across the district and hence, sales at the market has dropped. Retail customers are also scared of visiting the market because of the pandemic,” he says.