Incessant rains in Karnataka in the last few months that damaged several crops have led to soaring vegetable prices across the state, state-run horticulture committees and private grocers said.
"Due to heavy rains across the state, several crops have been damaged. There has been very less availability of everyday vegetables like onions, tomatoes and potatos, leading to rising prices," Gopal Gowda, Marketing Manager of Horticultural Producers' Cooperative Marketing and Processing Society (HOPCOMS), told IANS.
As listed by HOPCOMS, an organisation under the state's Department of Horticulture, on Monday, onions were priced at Rs 67 per kilo and tomatoes at Rs 42 a kilo as against their earlier prices which ranged between Rs 30-35 per kilo.
The prices of the politically sensitive vegetable, the onion, are likely to come down after the central government last week imposed a minimum export price of $850 per tonne (approximately Rs 54.8 per kilo) to increase domestic supplies, Gowda added.
The central government moved after vegetable prices shot up across the country.
"We are expecting the prices of onions to come down within another 15-20 days with the new harvest expected to hit the market," Gowda added.
"Unprecedented rains have caused the aberrations in food industry as there has been a delay in sowing the crops, which in turn delayed the crop cycle," Vipul Mittal, the National Head for Fruits and Vegetables for online grocer Big Basket, told IANS over the phone.
The prices of onions and tomatoes should have ideally been low during the winter with the harvest of their crops, Mittal added.
Over the past six months, the prices of onions per kilo swung between Rs 14 and Rs 47 on the grocery e-tailer's website, while the average prices of tomatoes per kilo varied between Rs 27 and Rs 72.
In June, the average price of a kilo of onions on Big Basket was Rs 14, while it rose to Rs 16 in July, then nearly doubled to Rs 31 in August. For the months of September and October, the average price of onions remained nearly the same as it was in August, then shot up to Rs 47 in November.
With many of the private grocery retailers sourcing vegetables and fruits directly from the farmers, they could manage to keep the prices slightly lower than that of the market, said M. Venkateshwar Kumar, the Chief Executive Officer, South of Future Retail.
"We have improved our way of sourcing our fruits and vegetables phenomenally over the last few months and have a way of procuring directly from the farmers. That helps in competitive pricing," Kumar told IANS.
Karnataka is one of the country's major onion producing states, with Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat being the other leading producers.
MB Raje Gowda, a professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences, estimated that the productivity of onions could go down by at least 70 per cent in the state owing to the heavy rains.
"During June and July, the sowing months, the state had no rainfall at all, which affected the farmers who took to onion sowing. Then there were excessive rains which caused water-logging in farms across the state during August and September, destroying the crops," Gowda said.
"Sowing area for onions on the whole in the state was less than 50 per cent of the area that is usually sown, out of which several crops were destroyed due to the rains. One can expect the output of onions to be affected by at least 70 per cent in Karnataka," he added.
(Bhavana Akella can be contacted at email@example.com)