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'Veg prices may not increase during monsoon this year'

Experts urge the State government to provide cold storage facilities and godowns to stock perishable commodities to help during natural disasters.

Veg prices may not increase during monsoon this year

Sales have been dull in the past few months for vegetable sellers.

CHENNAI: A sharp rise in prices of perishable commodities has been a major cause of stress among the denizens that usually compounds when the monsoon season begins, which inevitably, falls during festival time. However, this year, it would not be an issue this year, as farmers and traders indicate that cultivation of additional crops in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana would ensure adequate supply of vegetables, especially tomatoes and onions.

Experts urge the State government to provide cold storage facilities and godowns to stock perishable commodities to help during natural disasters.

Extreme heat and heavy rainfall during the southwest monsoon affected crop cultivation of tomatoes in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and led to disruption of supply to Tamil Nadu. Prices of tomatoes spiked from Rs 40 to Rs 200 per kg in the last two months with 200 tonnes supplied from the neighbouring states. Recently, the supply has increased to 300 tonnes that resulted the rates a mild dip to Rs 80-90 per kg.

“Only 50% of tomato production was done in the past few months, which is the main reason for the sudden price hike. Since the demand pushed up the prices of tomatoes, ginger, shallots, and garlic impacted farmers, they sowed additional crops of perishable commodities. Unlike the previous monsoon seasons, vegetables especially onions and tomatoes will have adequate supply and would be sold for Rs 30-40 per kg,” said R Muthuraj, a farmer from Tenkasi district.

But, he lamented over the lack of cold storage facilities and godowns in Tamil Nadu which has reduced agricultural pattern drastically. “For almost 40 years, we have lagged in this situation compared to the neighbouring districts where the check dams are maintained properly,” he pointed out.

Though there are rumours that prices of onions would surge during the northeast monsoon, farmers in Nasik, Belleri, and Telangana will cultivate more onions in the next two months. As the water and cold storage facilities have been maintained properly in other states, commodities will be stocked to ensure continuous supply.

“The State government should plan accordingly, at least 50% of excess rainwater flows into check dams. Until measures are taken to develop agriculture in the State, vegetable prices will keep increasing during every monsoon season,” opined P Sukumaran, secretary of Koyambedu Wholesale Merchants’ Association. “We hope that the prices will not soar this year. If there is any shortage in supply, the maximum prices of vegetables will be Rs 50 per kg.”

Experts explained that during monsoon and summer, price of vegetables shoots due to extreme spells and heat that damage cultivation. Crops like onions and potatoes can be sowed during monsoon and harvest post-monsoon season. Nonetheless, no crops can withstand intense wet spells.

Though farmers have assured continuity in supply during the northeast monsoon this year by sowing additional crops, perishable commodities will not sustain unless storage facilities and godowns are set up in the state. Prof D Narasimhan, a botanist, explained, “As tomatoes are grown in selected places in the country, it has affected the supply. However, other vegetable prices remained stable recently. The government should provide cold storage facilities in Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts where more cultivation happens.”

A few months ago, farmers and traders dumped tons of tomatoes on the road. To avoid such circumstances, farmers should be given a common storage facility, and regular monitoring should be carried out by the State government. Also, climate change has become crucial in recent years where monsoon spells are unpredictable. When several parts of the country experiences a heavy downpour during the monsoon season, it invariably impacts the seasonal agricultural pattern.

“The soil will be affected when there’s intense rainfall in a short period of time. Whereas, when the agricultural area witnesses heavy rain in regular intervals, the rainfall will be distributed, and the soil moisture would retain. Farmers should store adequate water supply when there is downpour that would help during drought situations,” said Prof Kurian Joseph, director, Centre for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Management.

Swedha Radhakrishnan
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