The cost of vegetables is at a season high. The average cost has almost doubled in the last one month: fish going up by 50 per cent and chicken by 25 per cent. Tomato, which goes as absurdly cheap as Re one a kilo during times of glut in production, is now reigning at `80 a kg. Also bringing tears to the eyes of Indian homemakers are beans at `100 a kg, green chilli at `80 and carrot at `70. The usually volatile potato and onion offer a relative breather at around `30 a kg though.
We, as a nation, are mostly bothered about upward movement in commodities that are partially or fully administered. This is true in the case of petrol, as much it is in the case or milk. However, we seem least concerned when the price of vegetables, meat and fish keep climbing in spurts of `5-10 a kg till suddenly it doubles, or even trebles. It doesn’t seem to matter that the price keeps changing in the space of a few hours. Meanwhile, each time there is a surplus production of perishables, such as tomato, the farmers lose out as the prices crash. Conversely, they again turn losers when crops fail.
Clearly, it is time for the government to usher in the farm gate-to-marketplace food cold chain that has been talked about by successive governments, both at the state and the Centre, over the past three decades or so. And it will do a world of good for the self-respect of the country if we were to do it under our own steam, rather than be compelled to roll out this vital tool in the food processing chain for the multinationals when they come in droves as a part of the inevitable FDI (foreign direct investment) in retail policy revamp. If the latter scenario were to unfold, we will be seen as no better off than a backward country, where modern infrastructure will come into play, only because of the MNCs.