A bag of vegetables is fast slipping out of the ambit of a budget kitchen.

From tomatoes and small onions to even the fresh greens, prices of most vegetables are up across the region

A bag of vegetables is fast slipping out of the ambit of a budget kitchen.

“Rising price of vegetables is affecting most of the consumers as there is little alternative for vegetables,” says V. Gomathi of Periyar Nagar in Erode. Dependence on non-vegetarian food has increased in the past one month from weekly once to thrice. “We have to work on cost cutting measures for a balanced budget,” she says.

From tomatoes and small onions to even the fresh greens, prices of most vegetables are up across the region. It is the result of a combination of factors, say farmers, traders, and officials. Failure of monsoon last year and demonetisation had an impact on sowing, they say.

Dharmapuri, Salem, Namakkal, Coimbatore and the Nilgiris are among the main horticulture crop growing centres in the State.

Over 3,500 hectares are under tomato crop in the blocks of Mecheri, Kaadayampatti, Omalur, Pethanayakkanpalayam, Attur in Salem district. Small onion is raised in more than 4,000 hectares in Namakkal district and about 700 hectares in the Kolathur, Vazhappadi and Gangavalli blocks in Salem district.

Repeated failure of monsoon resulted in standing crops withering in many parts, leading to fall in the arrival in the uzhavar santhais and open markets, say officials in Salem and Namakkal.

Three kg of tomato was priced at Rs. 10 in May and now it is Rs. 60 – Rs. 64 a kg. During the peak season period, the uzhavar santhais used to receive about seven tonnes of tomatoes every day. Currently, about five tonnes of tomatoes reach the market.

Following the commencement of small onion harvesting season in Salem District, there has been reasonable increase in the arrival of onion stock from the villages. The price of small onion which stood at more than Rs. 100 per kg last month, has come down. The price of good quality small onion stood at Rs. 84 and the second quality onion at Rs. 80 at the Salem Uzhavar Santhai on Sunday. The prices of tomatoes and small onions are expected to stabilise in the Salem wholesale markets once arrivals start from the nearby cultivation pockets.

The shortage of rainfall and demonetisation seem to have played into the cropping area in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. Bathalahalli is the largest wholesale market that attracts traders from across the State and sends vegetables to Kerala too. The general fall in production of vegetables in Thally, Denkanikottai, Hosur and Rayakottai – whose farmers are the largest suppliers of cabbage, tomatoes, beans, carrots, beets, is one of the reasons for the price rise. The supply has fallen, but the demand has increased, say traders.

President of Traders’ Association of Bathalahalli market Raja Reddy says the number of trucks loading vegetables is between 80 to 100 tonne on any day and it has remained almost the same, subject to availability of vegetables. The price of most vegetables range from Rs. 50 to Rs. 60 per kg. “Beans has been going at Rs. 50 per kg for the last 6 months,” he says. This year, tomato cultivation fell significantly. Its price at the market is Rs. 70 per kg, he adds. Normally, June- August witness a rise in tomato prices largely coinciding with the fall in the vegetable’s production in other growing regions of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The 70-day crop was hit right when demonetisation came. Farmers, who were already mid-way into the crop and awaiting harvest, were hit. To cut down on costs, the area of cultivation was also reduced, says a Rayakottai-based farmer.

In the Nilgiris, though the prices of vegetables such as potatoes and tomatoes remains extremely high, “English vegetables” such as broccoli, carrots, beans and beetroot, which are produced in large quantities in the Nilgiris, have not seen a steep hike in prices.

According to Raja Mohammed, a wholesale vegetable supplier, the wholesale rate of broccoli currently is Rs. 130 per kg., while carrots are sold for anywhere between Rs. 35-40 per kg. depending on the quality and freshness of the produce. Beetroot is also selling for between Rs. 28 to Rs. 35 per kg., which is the usual price that these vegetables are sold for during this season.

“The price of English vegetables increase only during the wedding season, when they are purchased in large quantities for feasts,” he says. Though the prices of vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes are still high, there has not been a major demand for cheaper alternatives, said other vegetable sellers in the Ooty Municipal Market.

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