Vegetable prices go soaring at rythu bazaars

OUT OF REACH: While `Karteeka masam' has resulted in abundant stocks of vegetables reaching the market, buyers are in a quandary due to skyrocketing prices in Visakhapatnam. — Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

OUT OF REACH: While `Karteeka masam' has resulted in abundant stocks of vegetables reaching the market, buyers are in a quandary due to skyrocketing prices in Visakhapatnam. — Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam  

Prabhakkar Sharma

VISAKHAPATNAM: Rythu bazaars, which have become popular due to sale of vegetables at reasonable prices, are also now going out of bounds for the common man like any other market place. Since last week, the prices of all kinds of vegetables have suddenly skyrocketed for inexplicable reasons and one wonders why the authorities concerned are not attempting to control the situation.

A bottle gourd that cost Rs. 5 ten days ago is now sold at Rs. 25; lady's finger and brinjal which were normally sold at Rs. 8 per kg. this season now costs Rs. 22; snake gourd at Rs. 10 per piece against the usual Rs. 3; little gourd (donda) sold at Rs. 16 per kg. against normal rate of Rs. 5; and cucumber Rs. 33 against Rs. 8 per kg.-- all recording a price jump ranging from 400 to 500 per cent.

One can understand if the prices soar when vegetables are in short supply or due to seasonal fluctuations. But they are very much available and in fresh heaps, because this is the season when they arrive straight from the fields. Only the price is kept out of reach. Even leafy vegetables that can be raised in a week's time are also sold at prices four to five times the normal rate.

The reasons attributed for the high prices are many. Some claim that recent rains washed away all vegetable fields and they have to start all over a gain as the rabi season has just begun. There are also rumours doing the rounds that the situation would continue until the next crop gets ready. Another reason is that there is the practise of vegetable prices touching the peak in Kartika maasam when the majority of Hindus in north Andhra who worship Lord Siva take `Saiva aahaaram' or pure vegetarian food.

This is also the season when devotees of Lord Ayyappa going on a pilgrimage to Sabarimala take `deeksha' and don black clothes for a period of `mandalam' or 40 days. There is no question of their consuming anything other than vegetarian food during `deeksha'. Hence the increase in prices, the vendors argue.

But these arguments do not hold water when the commodity is available fresh and in plenty. Never before did the prices soar to these levels during the season, even in times of rains which damaged the crops.

Rotten onions

The district administration, in a bid to check the onion prices, is supplying the commodity at only Rs. 7 a kg. against the open market price of Rs. 12. But there are complaints that about 25 per cent of the onions supplied are rotten. The onions in bags of 45 kg. arrive from Kurnool and when sold in retail, the trader tends to lose a couple of kilograms in weighment. As the onions are subsidised, the authorities do not want to bear the additional burden of weeding out the rotten stuff.

Even the pricing is done mechanically, without making any effort to control the prices. An officer of the Marketing Department and the estate officer of rythu bazaar visit the wholesale and retail market separately and jot down the prices reeled out by the traders.

Then the estate officer of rythu bazaar compares the rates with the marketing officer and fixes the prices for rythu bazaars so that they are one or two rupees lower than the retail prices. He does this in consultation with a committee comprising of a DWCRA member and three farmers.

The same prices hold good for all the six rythu bazaars at Sethammadhara, MVP Colony, Pedawaltair, Narasimha Nagar, Kancharapalem and Gopalapatnam.

The State Government takes pride in being farmer-friendly. The officials toeing the line are fixing the prices to suit the farmers, and are not really bothered if the prices are 500 per cent higher than what they were in the previous week.

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