KATHMANDU, Sept 20: The prices of major vegetable items — potatoes, onions and tomatoes — have skyrocketed in the Kathmandu Valley over the past few days, which traders blamed mainly on the slump in production of these products. This has taken up the households’ kitchen expenses at a time when hundreds of thousands are suffering from a fall in income due to the pandemic.
According to the Kalimati Vegetable and Fruits Development Board, the wholesale price of tomatoes has gone up 40 percent and that of potatoes has escalated by more than 20 percent just over the last one week. Likewise, the price of onions has almost doubled during the period. With the new price, the wholesale rate of tomatoes is Rs 98 per kg, that of potatoes is Rs 90 per kg and that of onions is Rs 112 per kg on an average.
Binaya Shrestha, deputy director of the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market Development Board, said all these products have been dearer due to the heavy fall in supply with the low production. “While the onion price has gone up with the Indian government imposing a ban on exports, the prices of potatoes and tomatoes have increased sharply with low productions at the local level,” said Shrestha.
Traders claim that the prices of these three vegetables usually surge mainly during this time every year. Ram Lal Mahato, who hails from Rautahat and sells vegetables at the Naxal vegetable market, said the supply of potatoes from Mude and Palung has declined in recent days. “So, the product from Mude costs more than Rs 100 per kg while the market price of Palung’s produce is Rs 80 per kg,” Mahato said.
According to Mahato, the price of tomatoes has gone up mainly as the supply is being made out of the tunnel based production. “Normally, farmers remain busy harvesting paddy around this time every year. Following this, the farmers plant potatoes and tomatoes and it takes a few months to yield a new harvest, creating a short supply of these vegetables in the market,” he added.
Despite what the traders and the board officials say, consumers lament that the existence of black marketeering has only fuelled the escalating prices. The fact that a number of unscrupulous traders were found involved in the misconduct during market inspection by the government authorities last week, also provides evidence to the irregularities in the domestic market.