Vegetable prices have witnessed a sharp rise in the Kathmandu Valley with wholesale prices jumping up to 83 percent and retail prices up 50 percent in the past month.
Market watchers attributed the dramatic rise in prices to low supply as farmers are presently busy transplanting paddy, the country’s main crop, and don’t have time for vegetables. Moreover, recent floods have swept away standing vegetable crops in most of the key producing areas. Prices increased 15-20 percent in less than two weeks. Traders said that vegetable price s would likely stabilize by September.
Popular items like cauliflower, cabbage, lady’s finger, egg plant, French bean, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, smooth gourd and squash have become costlier. The Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market, one of largest vegetable markets in the valley, reported that shipments had started to drop and high demand had put pressure on prices.
Local vendors are selling cauliflower at Rs65-70 per kg, against Rs50-Rs 55 last month. Similarly, cabbage costs Rs40-50 per kg, up from Rs35-Rs40 earlier. Prices of vegetables like pointed gourd, bottle gourd, smooth gourd and snake gourd have jumped to Rs50-60 per kg from Rs40-50 before.
The wholesale price of onion swelled to Rs48 per kg from Rs42 last week. And the upward trend is likely to continue due to price hikes in India amid a short supply.
India is the major supplier of onions to Nepal. The Indian media reported that onion prices jumped to a two-year high due to weak monsoon rains during the sowing season. Onion is retailing at Rs55-60 per kg in the valley against Rs45-50 two weeks ago. Tomato has become dearer compared to last year. The average retail price is Rs65 per kg against Rs40 last year.
Khoj Raj Katuwal, president of Nepal Tunnel Farmers Association, said tomato production was low this season and flash floods in June-end damaged standing plants.
Sumitra Budhathoki, a housewife in Kathmandu, is worried about balancing her kitchen budget following the steep price hike. “All the vegetables have become more expensive. The price of tomato has skyrocketed,” she said, adding her kitchen expenses jumped sharply.
Budhathoki complained that there was a huge difference in the wholesale and retail prices, and said that the government should monitor the market.
However, Binay Shrestha, senior planning officer at the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board, said prices usually climb in June-July as supplies drop due to the occurrence of the paddy transplantation season.
He said the market has been receiving 500-550 tonnes of vegetables and fruits daily against the usual 700-750 tonnes.
Flash floods in the last week of June damaged standing vegetable crops in many places of Lalbandi, one of the major vegetable producing areas in Sarlahi. The district accounts for more than 5 percent of the vegetables sold in the valley.
Farmers said floods swept away growing vegetable plants like bitter gourd, cucumber, bottle gourd and green bean. The area is famous in the country for tomato cultivation. Farmers are estimated to have suffered losses in millions of rupees.
Nepal produces vegetables worth Rs45 billion annually, according to the Nepal Vegetable Crops Survey. Farmers invest more than Rs9 billion in vegetable farming every year. The report says that around 70 percent of Nepal’s total households grow vegetables.
Despite a growth production and the area under cultivation, imports have been growing at a rapid rate. The Agriculture Ministry reported Nepal imported vegetables worth Rs50.94 billion in 2013-14, a steep rise from Rs35.27 billion in 2012-13.