Ranchi, June 29: A weak monsoon coupled with fuel price hike has made vegetables dearer. Worse, the average homemaker may have to squeeze her kitchen budget for at least another two months as the price peril is likely to continue till September.
Even three weeks ago, most vegetables were affordable at Rs 10-40 a kg, but scanty rainfall has jacked up prices by 20-50 per cent.
According to rates provided by the Daily Market Vegetable Association in Ranchi, onions that sold at Rs 10 per kg even a couple of days ago is now priced at Rs 13 a kg. It is expected to get even dearer in coming weeks as it is imported from Nasik.
Beans were expensive at Rs 40 a kg last month, but at Rs 90 a kg it is, currently, beyond common man’s reach. The price of capsicum has increased from Rs 22/kg to Rs 40/kg and that of cauliflower from Rs 18/kg to Rs 40/kg.
The only respite from this price heat comes in the form of the ubiquitous potato, which is still available at Rs 10 a kg.
Birsa Agriculture University (BAU) director (research) B.N. Singh explained that scanty rainfall had taken a toll on crops and production was less this year. “If the state had received rainfall in the month of May-June, there would have been nothing to worry.”
Singh added that farmers were reliving the drought nightmare of 2009. “Last year, the state had witnessed a drought. Wells had dried up and farmers were unable to irrigate their lands. They had had to incur heavy losses.”
Afroz Alam, a vegetable vendor at the Daily Market, admitted that poor yield had led to the price pinch. The demand-supply mismatch has aggravated with vegetables from Jharkhand also being supplied to Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. “Everyday, some 14-15 trucks are imported to neighbouring states. As a result, we are unable to fulfil the demand at home,” said vendor Guddu Lal.
Lohardaga, Brambe, Mandar Bedo and Nagri are the vegetable bowls of the state. While bean, capsicum, cabbage, cucumber, green chilli, gourd, carrot, tomato and potato are grown locally, onions are imported from Nasik in Maharashtra. Birendra Kumar, a vegetable grower, pointed out that onions would get dearer by Rs 15 with the hike in petrol and diesel prices.
Abdul Hanif, another vendor, warned of expensive tomatoes. “Brambe and Mandar tomatoes were damaged due to erratic rainfall. This resulted in price rise. If there is shortage, the price will go up further,” he said.
Director Singh said though the price of cauliflower and tomato, which grow round the year, would stabilise soon, that of others are unlikely to come down before September.
The price pinch is being strongly felt by middle class and lower middle class families. Peon Raj Sinha, whose monthly salary of Rs 4,000 provides for a family of six, said they had stopped having vegetables. Several others like him are substituting vegetables with milk and bread.