The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain shade on green prices
- Crops submerged, supplies dwindle

After pounding Calcutta, Howrah and the rest of south Bengal for six days on the trot, the skies might have cleared on Friday, but the twin impact of the rains ' short supply and spiralling prices of vegetables ' will be felt in the weeks to come.

Early signals emerging from markets in Calcutta and Howrah ' the slight upswing in the rates of tomatoes, brinjals and other vegetables that was witnessed this week ' could be just the tip of a price-rise iceberg.

'Vegetable crops in all south Bengal districts have been affected by the continuous rain,' agriculture marketing minister Chhaya Ghosh said on Friday.

'Supplies from these districts keep the local markets going in Calcutta and Howrah. A shortage situation and rise in prices may prove unavoidable,' she warned (See box).

A combination of the almost week-long nagging rain, Vishwakarma Puja and the repercussions of the recent truck strike had affected prices of vegetables in small measures, with a rise up to Rs 2 registered.

This rise started to inch down on Friday as the rains let up, but the relief for the householder is expected to be short-lived. The continuous rain since last Saturday has caused havoc in the vegetable-growing fields of North 24-Parganas, Nadia and Murshidabad, the three main districts that supply vegetables to Calcutta. Howrah depends for supplies on East and West Midnapore, Hooghly and Burdwan which, too, have been ravaged by the rain.

More than 170,000 quintals of vegetables enter the wholesale markets in the city and Howrah every day, of which about 50 per cent move on to other municipal areas.

Most of the vegetable-growing fields in these districts are under shin to knee-deep water, submerging produce like jhinga, gourd, chillies, brinjal, cauliflower, cabbage, parwal and other creeper and shrub-borne items. This has already resulted in the crop rotting.

Farmers like Dulal Bala from Bethuadahari (Nadia), Pradip Haldar from Plassey (Murshidabad) and Md. Kamal from Bongaon (North 24-Parganas), who came to Koley Market on Friday, cursed the skies for the 'huge losses' they would be incurring on Puja-eve.

'You will have to wait till Kali puja (second week of November) for the next supply of green pepper from us, since the entire crop is now lying under knee-deep water in the field. We have to sow new seeds after the rainwater drains or dries up,' said Bala.

'Most of the radish grown in our Badkulla area, in Nadia, has rotted under stagnant rainwater in the field,' said Dwijen Sarkar, adding that the growing and harvesting of fresh crops would take 10 to 12 weeks.

The crop that has survived will reach the city provided road surface conditions allow safe transportation. The good vegetables that will finally make it to the city markets will be priced 50 per cent to 100 per cent higher than normal.

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