Middlemen are raising vegetable prices even though there's no disruption in the supply chainMiddlemen see no resistance from the government when hiking prices.
In most of the markets in the Kathmandu Valley, one thing is common nowadays: Each vegetable item costs over Rs100 per kg.
While traders say the flood and landslides in key vegetable producing areas has affected production, consumer rights activists say middlemen are hiking up prices on the pretext of natural disasters.
The average price of vegetables has soared up to 68 percent as compared to the same period last year.
The increase in prices has hit consumers the hardest. Some consumers said that prices had risen so high that Rs500 could buy hardly three items of vegetables nowadays.
Almost all seasonal vegetables have gotten dearer by more than 60 percent this season compared to last year. The prices of vegetables such as tomato big, yardlong beans, string beans, soyabean green, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, sponge gourd, okra and fiddlehead have crossed Rs100 per kg compared to last year.
Balkhu Fruit and Vegetable Market has been receiving 600 tonnes of vegetables from Tarai and nearby districts, said Resham Tamang, officer at the market while Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market has been receiving 800 tonnes of vegetables. Officials of both vegetable markets said that there was no disruption in supply.
Before the heavy rains and floods that began from July 11, pesticide and quarantine issues with India had obstructed deliveries, causing a big gap in demand and supply that led to massive price hikes in key cities like Kathmandu.
Now, the price of tomato big which was priced at Rs45 per kg on July 28 last year has reached Rs105 per kg, a jump of 133 percent. Similarly, tomato small which used to cost Rs35 per kg now retails at Rs85 per kg, a hike by 142.86 percent.
Last year, the government formed a committee after seasonal vegetable prices shot up 30 percent over a month while off-season vegetables saw prices jump up to 50 percent due to the involvement of middlemen.
The committee report recommended making purchase bill mandatory to ensure transparency in the purchase rate (price paid to farmers) and reduce the involvement of middlemen in the supply chain.
The government failed to implement the recommendations, giving middlemen more leeway in raising prices.
Although the government is not involved in the pricing of vegetables as per the open market policy, certain areas need to be looked into, said an official at the Department of Commerce, Supply and Protection of Consumer.
The government is trying to check soaring prices by conducting market inspection but such events are not a common occurrence.
And even with such inspections, prices continue to soar according to Prem Lal Maharjan, president at National Consumer Forum Nepal. "Vegetable prices rose after the recent inspection where the Department of Commerce, Supply and Protection of Consumer punished 19 traders," said Maharjan.
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