A failed monsoon and a war of wits between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over Cauvery water sharing resulted in a steep rise in the price of rice in the retail market in the State. Though the increase has been around 20 per cent, market watchers predict further hikes due to shortfall of paddy production in the Tamil Nadu.
In the wholesale market, rice traders had sold 75 kg of puzhungal rice (boiled rice variety) for Rs 2,970 last year. This year, the price has increased to Rs 3,300 in wholesale and Rs 3,500 in retail. The prices of all the rice varieties had increased up to Rs 4 a kg affecting consumers badly.
Sugumaran, a farmer, says it was the war over rice that had led to the Cauvery dispute and not the other way round. “Agriculture and related business play a vital role in Karnataka’s economy. The agricultural area in Tamil Nadu has considerably diminished due to the lack of water. In order to procure rice from them, Karnataka has refused water to us,” he said.
M G Devarasan, State coordinator of Thamizhaga Uzhavar Munnani, however, said that hike in the prices had come from the farmers who sold paddy to the merchants at lesser than the production cost, and merchants who hoard them.
Providing a contrary view, Murugan, a wholesale rice merchant, said, “The total cultivated area in Tamil Nadu had come down by 20 per cent leading to the rise in paddy prices. We are procuring paddy from Karnataka, Orissa and Bihar. Because of the demand of rice, farmers in those states have raised the price.”