Vegetable rates rise in Sikkim
Cabbages are rotting in the farmlands of West Sikkim because of snap in the supply chain amid the Covid-19 pandemic when people across the state are compelled to buy the limited veggies available at their local markets at a premium.
On Saturday, a Gangtok resident bought cabbages at Rs 100 per kilogram from Lal Bazar, the capital’s main vegetable market. In contrast, cabbages are rotting in the fields in Ribdi-Bharang gram panchayat under Daramdim Assembly constituency in West Sikkim since there are no buyers.
The farmers of Daramdim constituency traditionally sell their produce to local traders, but the pandemic has hit the supply chain hard.
“The pandemic has resulted in the closure of markets in the state as well as outside for various lengths of time. For instance, Lal Bazar was closed for a few days recently and so was the Siliguri Regulated Market. And there are logistical issues. We cannot possibly lift cabbages from farmers when there is no available avenue for us to supply,” said a trader from the area.
Since the start of the lockdown in March, essential commodities, including vegetables, have largely been exempted from its purview. Despite that, vegetables are in short supply in the markets, resulting in price escalation. For instance, the prices of brinjal, bitter gourd and cucumber at Lal Bazar on Sunday were Rs 80, Rs 80 and Rs 70 per kg, respectively.
Sunday’s prices are actually a sharp fall from the previous day’s, thanks to the Sikkim State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd (Simfed), which started selling vegetables at lower prices from its outlet at Lal Bazar. Simfed is the apex marketing society of the Sikkim government.
“Yesterday, I had bought cabbages at Rs 100 a kilogram. Today, Simfed started selling cabbages at Rs 40 per kilogram, forcing others to bring down the price as well,” said D. B. Chhetri, a resident of Titanic Park near MG Marg.
The cabbage farmers, however, are unhappy with Simfed for allegedly turning a deaf ear to their plight. “The department should have come forward to help us in this time of pandemic. They could have procured our produce at say Rs 15/16 (per kilogram) to help the cultivators. This would also help consumers, given the crisis of vegetables in Gangtok, Namchi, Soreng and other places,” said Suman Rai, a farmer and former panchayat member of Ribdi-Bharang gram panchayat.
Pawan Awasthy, the managing director of Simfed, said a three-pronged strategy had been agreed on to address the issue. “We have decided to procure cabbages at Rs 12 (per kilogram). We have activated the FPOs (Farmers/Producers Organisation). They have been asked to immediately start lifting produce from Daramdim. And if there is a glut, we will start auctioning cabbages from our yard at the Siliguri Regulated Market,” he said.