KATHMANDU, Oct 3: With the prices of vegetables skyrocketing, traders have been found charging consumers more than double of what they pay to the wholesalers, taking a profit margin of up to Rs 80 per kg while selling fresh vegetables to consumers.
Most of the time, the end consumers and the farmers -- the main producers -- have always appeared big losers in the vegetables market and the middlemen are blamed for this. Recently, traders have hiked the vegetable prices multifold in the Kathmandu Valley citing low production.
A wide variation has been observed in the end consumers’ prices at a number of retail markets in the Valley and the wholesale prices fixed by the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market Development Board - the main government body that sets the prices of farm products in the Valley every day.
For instance, the board set the price of tomato at Rs 48 per kg for Saturday. However, retailers have been charging the consumers up to Rs 100-125 per kg. While Big Mart has been selling tomatoes at Rs 95 per kg, as the weekend offer, the shopkeepers in Naxal vegetable market have been charging up to Rs 125 per kg.
Likewise, the retail price of green soybean is Rs 130 per kg against the wholesale price of Rs 58 a kg. Shoppers were found charging Rs 180 per kg for pointed gourd and Rs 160 per kg for bitter gourd while the wholesale price was just Rs 105 per kg.
A study conducted by the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection three years ago shows that the vegetables undergo five layers of transaction before they reach the hands of consumers from the wholesale market, which is mainly responsible for the price hikes. However, the retailers have been found involved in forming cartels in vegetables even when they themselves purchase the farm products from the wholesalers.
“Almost all retailers either go themselves to the Kalimati market or they have their own channels to fetch the products from the main suppliers,” a shopkeeper at Naxal Vegetable Market told Republica.
Madhav Timilsina, president of Consumer Rights Investigation Forum, said the retailers unite to earn hefty profits at the cost of the consumers, taking advantage of weak market monitoring by the government authorities.