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Covid-19 lockdown: Food prices on fire in Delhi

With most trucks stranded after fresh curbs at Capital’s entry points, stocks at veggie & fruit hub dwindling, biz down by 60%.

Prices of vegetables, fruits and other household staples have shot up in Delhi, burning big holes in the pockets of lakhs of residents, Mail Today ground reports have revealed.

For example, the costs of capsicum, ladies finger, ginger, garlic and bottle gourd have more than doubled in many areas of the National Capital. Reasons: Sealed borders, higher transportation costs, absence of adequate labour, and rising demand due to lockdown extension apprehensions.

Worse, Azadpur Mandi – Delhi’s largest wholesale hub for these produces – has been crippled by the virus scare. So far, 11 positive cases have been reported from the market, forcing many fear-stricken traders to confine themselves at homes as others scramble for testing. Business is down by at least 60%, said traders who are still operating. A big chunk of vegetables comes from Sonipat.

Now with the Delhi-Haryana border sealed, the number of trucks carrying onion and potato has plummeted from 180 to 65, said Rajendra Sharma, general secretary of Potato and Onion Merchants’ Association at Azadpur Mandi. Adil Ahmad Khan, chairman of Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee, said “There was no supply of vegetables from Sonipat. “Overall, daily supplies have come down from 8,000 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes,” he said.

And the situation might get worse. “Many traders like me won’t go to the Mandi until proper sanitisation, tracing of positive cases and their contact history and stricter implementation of social distancing were done,” said Mahavir Singh. Mandis such as those in Okhla and Ghazipur are also witnessing a sharp price rise, said traders.

KITCHEN CRISIS

Shankar, a vegetable seller in Mayur Vihar, said almost all vegetables have become costlier. “Ladies finger, bottle gourd, capsicum and cauliflower are costing Rs 20 per kg more. Ginger and garlic prices have increased by Rs 50 per kg. And now, the sealing of the border will only add to this hike,” he said. “All green vegetables are costly. Cauliflower, capsicums and bottle gourd — the prices of all basic vegetables have gone up by up to 50 per cent. I already don’t buy as much as I used to. And now if prices go up further, well, we will have to survive on pulses,” said Sanjeev Kumar, a buyer.

NOT JUST VEGGIES

Mail Today ground reports also showed how it has become difficult to get grocery and other basic commodities. What’s available is non-branded and much costlier, many residents said. They said they have to pay almost 20% to 30% more for whatever rice, pulses, flour and edible oil are still available in limited quantities. First commodities became scarce due to panic-buying and hoarding, triggering a price rise. Prices then started skyrocketing as goods trucks remain halted, there are no fresh supplies and migrant labourers have been heading home in most parts of the country.

At Lahori Gate Market, Delhi’s biggest wholesale hub for foodgrains, Naya Bazaar and Sadar Bazaar, most shops had no stocks and were closed. Those open had limited supplies at higher rates. Traders said that since trucks are not operating and workers have gone home, supplies are not coming and doing business is not impossible.

Amit Jain, a wholesale shopkeeper in Lahori Gate, said, “Prices of pulses have gone up by Rs 10 to Rs 20 per kg. Retailers add a margin of Rs 20 to Rs 30 per kg and it results in common people buying at much higher prices,” he said. Jain got his supplies of pulses from Chennai, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. But since the lockdown, every order has been cancelled. “We are not getting new supplies. Those who had stored stocks are selling at very high rates. The business has gone zero,” he said.

JNU STUDY

During the first 21 days of the nationwide lockdown, only 1.32 lakh tonnes of wheat was sold in the mandis. This was only about 6% of the total amount of wheat sold in the same 21-day period in 2019. Similarly, the supply chain of other foodgrains and vegetables was severely disrupted due to the sudden announcement of the lockdown, a study conducted by academics from JNU has found.

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