No sooner had the average Hyderabadi breathed a sigh of relief after fuel prices came down by a notch a couple of months ago, were they dealt with another blow. Soaring prices of vegetables and other essential commodities has everybody’s budgets going haywire and it’s little wonder then that it is the hottest topic of discussion in every household.
With the rising mercury levels, prices of vegetables have shot up by more than 50 pre cent in the City. The price of ladyfingers that was around Rs.26 per kg last month has now reached Rs.32 per kg and brinjal which cost Rs.8 per kg has now reached Rs.17 this week. Be it the green chillies, field beans or capsicum all these vegetables are slowly inching away from last month’s price.
These prices however, are of at the Erragada Rythu Bazar and the prices may be higher in super markets and other vegetable markets in the City. “The prices were moderate at the beginning of the year,” said Lachaiah, a vegetable vendor in Rythu Bazaar. The inflation in vegetable prices eats away his profits as customers cut down on buying, he adds.
There are many factors that are contributing to the rise in vegetable prices — low production, increasing transportation costs and declining groundwater levels in many parts of the State.
A majority of farmers bring vegetables to the City from surrounding villages but due to declining groundwater levels, vegetable production has been hit, said Alexander, estate officer, Erragada Rythu Bazaar. “Except for the prices of tomatoes, potatoes, onions and cabbage, there seems to be no solace for consumers,” he adds.
Rythu Bazar authorities predict that the prices of these vegetables would also increase in the coming days as production will be affected. Sandeep, who comes from Rangareddy district, to sell beans, carrots, peas and green chilli said that with summer round the corner, prices would only increase. “It has been bad for consumers this past week. Prices were moderate at the beginning of the year, but they’ve risen,” he said.
Sri Latha, a customer at Rythu Bazaar, said, “Life is hit hard when vegetables and other essential commodities become dearer. It forces people to cut down on consumption. Time was when a middle class family could get by on a weekly provisions’ budget of Rs.1,000. Now, you can probably buy just fruits and vegetables for that amount. Nothing comes cheap. Forget the sudden spurt in vegetable prices, the cost of other essentials — sugar, tea, coffee — has been rising too.”
“With rising prices, vegetables have become as precious as gold. Sustaining even a small family has become difficult. It has impacted small eateries. The main reason for escalating prices is heavy and un-seasonal rainfall that has damaged crops,” said Md Rehman, another customer at Rythu Bazaar.
“I got married a couple of years ago. Now, I am struggling hard to keep our family of three. Working as a cabbie, I used to earn Rs.300-350 a day three years ago. But now, I don’t get as many passengers and my income has come down to Rs.250 a day. Simultaneously, my expenses have risen. It’s a crazy situation. There has been more than 80 to 100 per cent rise in the prices of vegetables and other commodities,” said Ramesh Kumar, a cab driver in the City.
Prices of vegetables peaked in markets elsewhere in the City too. For instance, the Wednesday Market in Alwal has prices of almost everything hovering around Rs.40 a kg. Carrot, ridge gourd, bitter gourd, ladyfinger, and arbi cost Rs.40 a kg, while cabbage, bottle gourd, coccinia (donda), beans were all priced at Rs.30 a kg. Brinjals (eggplant) ranged between Rs.20 and Rs.30.
The food inflation moves to negative. The Union Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has time and again resorted to the hunting game looking for scapegoats to blame the spiraling prices on. But unfortunately the rhetoric does not help the aam admi.