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Covid impact on prices: Prices of vegetable, pulses, grains, sugar fall on poor demand

Covid impact on prices: Prices of vegetable, pulses, grains, sugar fall on poor demand 1

DELHI/PUNE: Wholesale prices of fruits, vegetables, wheat, rice, pulses and sugar have fallen up to 75% since the start of the nationwide lockdown due to subdued demand, particularly from wholesalers in other states, restaurants and institutions, traders have said.

The prices are likely to remain weak till mid-June, industry insiders said, citing continued transportation issues with many state borders sealed, preventing traders from travelling to other states to make wholesale purchases.

“The number of buyers has come down since the lockdown happened,” said Anil Malhotra, member of Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC).

Metharam Kriplani, president of Azadpur Chamber of Fruits and Vegetables Association, said, “Few restaurants have started functioning, but overall there is a 40-50% drop in demand for fruits and vegetables from wholesalers in other states, hotels and restaurants and even modern retail outlets.”

According to them, in the past two week, bottle gourd prices fell by 75% to Rs 3 a kg, pumpkin and lady finger by 60% to Rs 3 and Rs 16 per kg, respectively, bitter gourd by 65% to Rs 7 a kg, and brinjal and cucumber by 55% to Rs 5 a kg. Fruits prices have also fallen by an average 30% during this period with apple now selling at Rs 45 a kg, mango at Rs 40 a kg, and sweet lemon, watermelon and melon at Rs 15 per kg, they said.

Onion traders are anticipating big losses for farmers as the country is expected to harvest a bumper crop of rabi onions.

Onion prices have already more than halved from Rs 16-18 per kg in April to Rs 6-8 a kg in wholesale trade, said Danish Shah, an onion exporter from Maharashtra.

The rabi crop of onion in Madhya Pradesh is 200% more than last year while onion harvesting in Maharashtra, which was delayed due to prolonged rainfall, is still continuing. “When this crop comes to markets, it will put further pressure on the prices,” Shah said. “In present times, onion is the only crop, which is not receiving any kind of government incentives for exports.”

Cotton farmers, meanwhile, carried out symbolic protests in Maharashtra by burning handful of cotton, wearing garlands of onions. “There is not demand for cotton in the open market, while the Cotton Corporation of India has been purchasing only good quality cotton Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ organisation. “Farmers are desperate to sell their cotton to purchase inputs for the kharif sowing,” he said.

Wheat, rice, sugar prices fall

Prices of wheat, rice and pulses have fallen about 15% since the lockdown began while sugar prices have dropped about 5% with demand from ice-cream and cold drink manufacturers shrinking considerably.

Wheat prices have fallen 15% to Rs 1,950 per 100 kg in Delhi’s wholesale market due to poor demand for its by products like flour, maida and suji, exports bottlenecks, as well as the peak harvest season, traders and processors said.

Exporters were not able to fulfil current orders for wheat from Bangladesh and West Asia due to transportation issues, traders said.

“The price of flour has come down by 20% to Rs 20 a kg, maida by 12% to Rs 21 a kg, and suji by 18% to Rs 23 a kg in the wholesale market, said Ram Chandra Singhal, president of Uttar Pradesh Flour Millers Association.

“Apart from lower purchase by hotels, restaurants, dhabas and weddings, the migration of labour has also made a major dent,” he said. “Maida noodles, bread and buns was largely consumed by labourers whose demand has dropped due to their migration.”

Lakshya Aggarwal of KLA Exports said rice prices too have dropped 15-20% to Rs 25-26 a kg in Mumbai and Delhi wholesale market.

Prices of most of the pulses are ruling below the government-set minimum support price (MSP), having declined Rs 5-10 per kg since the lockdown started.

“Prices of all types of pulses have declined by about 10% to 20% during lockdown,” said Bimal Kothari, vice president of Indian Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA). “The institutional demand was lost completely. We have a large crop of chana. Traders and buyers are facing monetary issues, limiting demand for the protein food,” he said.

Traders are also finding it difficult to travel to other state to procure pulses. “We have been unable to purchase chana and masur in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and tur in Maharashtra. This has kept prices weak,” said Sunil Baldeva, general secretary of Agri Farmers & Traders Association.

Sugar demand, too, has shrunk with ice cream and cold drink manufacturers losing the summer season sales due to Covid-19 outbreak. “Millers have not been getting volumes to sale sugar,” said Deepak Guptara, secretary of Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association. “Sugar prices have fallen by about Rs 150 a quintal of 100 kg from Rs 3,275 a quintal just when the lockdown was announced, to Rs 3,100 to Rs 3,120 a quintal,” he said.

Maize prices have fallen by 30% to Rs 1,350 for 100 kg since the lockdown began due to a drop in demand from poultry and starch companies, according to Ram Niwas of Delhi-based AM Traders.

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