July 16, 2012

Veg price sky-rockets, no control over pricing

Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay, TNN | Jun 21, 2012, 08.07 PM IST

KOLKATA: The delayed monsoon has got vegetable price spiralling. Moreover, middlemen in the agro-marketing network of the state adding woes to plight of common men by maximising profit with a yawning gap between wholesale market price and that of the retail markets.

The agricultural marketing minister Arup Roy admitted that middle-men have once again been playing havoc with the price of perishable commodities in urban an semi-urban markets. ""There is a task force to monitor the price. I have to check out what their findings are. I am indeed anxious with the price getting out of control. I will hold an emergency meeting on Monday," he added.

Besides, the task force a ministerial committee was formed to keep a tab on the commodity price at different markets. The committee has animal resource minister Nur-e-Alam Chowdhury, agricultural marketing minister Arup Roy and food processing minister Ujjwal Biswas.

The delayed monsoon has already taking toll of agriculture productions. Excessive heat and lack of rain has led to drying up of lot of agricultural products. Vegetables like parwal is the biggest victim of this extreme weather, said Shankar Kamila, secretary of agriculture marketers association. A lot of vegetables could not be sent to market from the fields.

But much of this price-rise was engineered artificially by middle-men. The yawning gap between the wholesale and retail price is one of indicators how the chain of middle-men are causing price-rise at their will. Two chains of middlemen work one between the farmers and whole-sellers and other from whole-sellers and retailers.

"Even though the chain between the whole-seller and retailer is a shorter one, the price difference can show the lack of monitoring on the markets by the government," said Amit Sinha, a consumers' rights activist.

According to whole-sale and retail marketing sources, the gap between the wholesale and retail price of perishable commodities are gradually increasing with the time. If the whole-sale price of parwal is Rs 8 per kg, it is selling at anything between Rs 20 and 30 at retail markets. It is worse for okra. The wholesale price is Rs 8-9, but the retail price is Rs 30-40.

In case of potato and onion, which are more-or-less regulated and can be stocked in cold-storage, the retail and wholesale price difference is not that huge. However, Patit Paban De, a potato expert said, ""The potato price is expected to rise further with a huge loss of productivity is south India.

""Some vegetables prices have gone up so high that it has been becoming increasingly difficult to strike a balance in the food budget for most of the buyers,"" said Rabindranath Koley of Kankurgachhi VIP market. The green chili has crossed Rs 100 per kg. I can't remember this happening in my life-time, he added.

Why is this gap ever widening? According to a senior officer, the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier took the price-rise seriously. She visited some markets and asked the chief secretary Samar Ghosh to inquire into the abnormal price rise. The government then periodically checked the market price and carried out raids. It yielded results. But with the time, that monitoring mechanism got rusty.

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