CHENNAI: The past few weeks have made us realise that its not just onions that give us teary-eyes anymore. Be it the mushy brown-covered potatoes, or the squishy red tomatoes, they’ve all put a hole through the purse, thanks to the pandemic, the lockdown and the latest addition to the list — heavy rains.
Data suggests that a majority of the households in the State paid 25 to 100 per cent more for procuring these three “essential” vegetables, as the supply has been hit by the flash floods. Local Circles, one of India’s leading community social media platform, conducted a pan-India survey which included 1,940 responses across the State (of which 1,355 were from Chennai). According to the data, 71 per cent people paid over Rs 40 and Rs 50 for one kilogram of potato and onion, respectively. Interestingly, when the survey was conducted in September, it was found that 61 per cent of the people paid over Rs 30 and Rs 25 for the same quantity of items.
This means, the average retail price paid by a majority of households rose by 30 per cent for potatoes and over 100 per cent for onions, while the price fell by 15 per cent for tomatoes, says Sachin Taparia, founder and chairman of Local Circles.
Individual data suggests that about 42 per cent people bought tomato at Rs 30 to 40, potato at Rs 60 or higher, and onions at Rs 70 or higher in the State. “This is indicative of a significant squeeze, given the fact that many households have faced loss of earnings or employment during the pandemic. Sectors like tourism, hospitality and restaurants have also faced cutbacks as people continue to limit movement because of the Covid fear,” the study stated.
The rise in prices of household necessities have only added to the burden of homemakers, especially those from low-income earning households. The survey is part of a continuous effort by Local Circles to bring the attention of concerned authorities to the issue. Taparia said, the prices rise could also hit the festive spending, which could come down by 33 per cent. Last year, about 78 per cent consumers shopped for household items, and it is coming down to 61 per cent this year, he added.
Abdul Khader, secretary of Koyambedu Vegetable Wholesale Merchants’ Association, said the prices of potato and onions have gone up due to shortage in supplies. In Chennai, the wholesale price of onion is Rs 70 and in retail it is priced around Rs 90 to 100. However, tomato prices have come down drastically and is now available for Rs 30 a kilogram in retail.
While a few traders believe that the prices in and around Chennai could be cheaper with retail outlets opening in Koyambedu market soon, it would depend on the availability and supply of the crop, said Khader.
S Chandran, president of Market Management Committee and Licensed Merchants’ Association and general secretary of Anaithu Sangankalin Kootamaipu told TNIE that the opening of retail and semi-wholesale shops on November 16 would reduce prices by at least Rs 1 to 5 per kilogram.