The prices have increased over the past one week worrying consumers and sellers, equally.
By Bibek Baidya
Kolkata’s vegetable markets witness the highest ever increase in vegetable prices in the last one week after the announcement of the extension of the lockdown till May 3, 2020. Vegetable vendors and suppliers said that the supply of materials is decreasing day by day but the demand is increasing continuously.
Mohammad Moti a pumpkin wholesaler in Sealdah and Gatokpukur market said, “In the first week of April, the price was normal but after the announcement of the extension of the lockdown the price has increased. The stocks are limited and none of the labourers are coming to the fields to harvest the vegetables. For wholesalers with limited stocks, the demand is very high.”
Market authorities in South Kolkata said that the advent of Poila Boisak ( Bengali New Year), has affected the price but even after two days of the festival, the prices remained high.
Hemanta Mukhi a vegetable vendor said “It is a very tough job for us to buy vegetables from the supplier because the price is very high. Last week we bought tomatoes at Rs 20 per kilogram (kg) but now it’s Rs 30 per kg. Potatoes were priced at Rs 25 to Rs 27 per kg last week, but this week they cost Rs 30 to Rs 32 per kg. So in the current situation, consumers refuse to buy the vegetables at such high prices and ultimately we end up making losses.”
The guidelines issued by the Central Government state that all essential services should be provided to the consumer which includes vegetables, fruits, and meat. The vegetable farm owners complain that due to the shortage of labour and cold storage facilities the prices are increasing.
Sarat Gourami, a vegetable producer in Nadia district of West Bengal said, “The lack of labour in the fields has lead to a huge problem. As most of the labourers are from other areas, they have left work and gone home. With the current weather conditions, we cannot harvest too many vegetables as it will rot quickly in the absence of delivery and storage facilities. The supply chain is one of the biggest issues that we are facing due to this lockdown. Trucks and vegetable carriers refuse to travel to the Kolkata markets due to fear of COVID-19.”
Consumers in South Kolkata said, “Chicken and mutton prices have already risen. If the vegetable prices also go up, then we don’t know what to eat in the coming days.”
Food Corporation of India (FCI) official Mr. Debasis Mondal said, “We are looking into the matter as suddenly the price of the vegetables has increased over the last week. In the coming days with some measures, we will try to bring the price down.” Dr.Nilanjan Deb, a professor of Agronomy at Calcutta University said, “The main problem is the lack of labour as the migrant labourers have left their work after the extension of the lockdown and gone home. As most of the of the farmers or farm landowners are not equipped with cold storage facilities they fear harvesting the vegetables from the field. With the current weather, if the vegetables are not harvested at the right time, they will automatically rot in the fields.”