Regional lockdowns make vegetables costlier

Onions being sold at a market in Sealdah.

The prices of onions and other vegetables sourced from states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka are rising because of regional lockdowns.

The price of onion has shot up from Rs 25 a kg a few days ago to around Rs 40 in retail markets. Traders say the upward trend is likely to continue.

Bengal consumes about 1 lakh tonnes of onion every month. The demand has come down to around 45,000 tonnes as many eateries are closed or functioning on a smaller scale because of stricter Covid curbs that have been in force in the state since May 16.

Bengal’s onion harvest earlier in the year has by now been consumed and the state is now entirely dependent on supplies from outside.

“Over 80 per cent of our current requirement is sourced from Nashik in Maharashtra and the rest from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” said Kamal Dey, the president of the West Bengal Vendors Association. “We are now having a shortfall of around 10,000 tonne.”

The bulk of the supplies from other states reach wholesale markets in Calcutta and its adjoining areas by trucks.

Wholesale traders in Calcutta said a truckload of onions from Nashik would cost between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 1.1 lakh. It now costs between Rs 1.4 lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh. The price rise has been attributed to a rise in loading/unloading charges and delay in transportation because of regional lockdowns. A third factor is an increase in the transportation cost because of a hike in the diesel price.

Several wholesale traders dealing in capsicum, beans, cabbage and cauliflower — most of which are sourced from Karnataka during this time of the year — cited the same reasons for the rise in the prices of these items.

Delays in transportation by road are resulting in a higher volume of wastage.

Cabbages sold for Rs 40 a kg on Sunday. A few days ago, the price varied between Rs 30 and Rs 35 a kg. The price of cauliflower has risen from Rs 15 to 20 apiece a few days ago to Rs 25.

“What’s hurting the most is the delay in transportation. While trucks from Nashik and Bangalore would earlier reach Calcutta in three days, now they are taking five days because of lockdown-related checks on inter-state borders,” said Ashim Halder, a wholesale onion trader in Sealdah.

“Around 20 truckloads of onions would arrive at Koley Market in Sealdah daily. Now five to six trucks are coming.”  

The impact has started showing. On Sunday, Nashik onions sold at Rs 25 a kg in the wholesale markets. In retail markets, a kilo sold for close to Rs 40, a rise by around Rs 15 in a matter of days.

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