Coronavirus in Mumbai: Vegetable prices soar as supplies plunge
BL Soni

Mumbai: The rush to stock up on vegetables, coupled with the shortage of supply on account of the nationwide lockdown, has caused their prices to surge dramatically.

Retailers across the city are charging as much as Rs 60 for a kilo of potatoes, while in the suburbs, it is selling at Rs 70-80 a kilo.

The Mumbai Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) market, Vashi, the epicentre of produce supplied to Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, has been closed since last Sunday and is expected to reopen briefly after March 31.

Due to the sudden closure of the market, retailers are running short of stock and selling whatever they have left at a premium."The APMC market is closed and the supplies will remain suspended till March 31. The retailers are unable to replenish their stock, due to which they have increased the price of the products" said Deepak Salunje, a member of the APMC committee.

Retailers across the city have blamed the erratic supply of vegetables for their soaring cost.In Andheri, vegetables like cauliflower are being sold at Rs 100 per kg, while onions and potatoes cost Rs 60-80 per kg.

In places like Ghatkopar, Bhandup and Vidyavihar, basic vegetables are being sold at Rs 50 per 500 gms, whereas buyers claimed, a week back the price range was between Rs 20-25. "A week ago, I purchased potatoes at Rs 22 per kg, now I had to pay Rs 45 for just half a kilo" said Sunita Jain from Ghatkopar. "For buyers, it is a take-it-or-leave-it situation, as the vendors won't budge, claiming they have not received supplies in the last one week," said Andheri resident Amit Mittal. In Oshiwara and Lokhandwala, Andheri West, vegetables are selling at Rs 100 per kilo. "Vendors are selling ladies finger at Rs 100 per kg, double from Rs 50 last week. Tomatoes are Rs 60, again double from Rs 30 last week and peas are Rs 100 for 250 gms. Prices have doubled and quality has plunged," said Shalini Nair, a Goregaon resident.

Apart from vegetables, cooking oil and flour are also selling well over their maximum retail price. A litre of cooking oil, costing Rs 130, is now selling at Rs 200. A kilo of flour is being sold at Rs 60, which is double the usual price. Meanwhile, the retailers are saying, since last Friday, they have not received stock. Most freight services are suspended and labourers have fled to their native villages amid the corona outbreak.

"Normally, we would refill our stock every two days. However, this time, it has been a week since we have received our last consignment. The supply has been cut off, forcing us to increase the price," said Mohan Patel, a vegetable retailer."Had we not increased prices, we would have run out of stock faster," Patel added.

The traders also expressed their concern saying if supply is not restored by next week, things will get harder and prices will go up at least five-fold. "If the supply doesn't resume within next week, there will be a severe crisis, as there could be a shortage of basic foodstuff," said Jitu Jadhav, a vendor.

"There are enough stocks in warehouses of Bhiwandi, Palghar and Vasai. However, police is not allowing the movement of trucks, so freight operators are not sending any. Unless police allow them to resume operations, the problem of shortage is not going away," Jadhav added.

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