Vegie prices set to burn the pocket

Crops across the spectrum affected with extreme weather holding in Kerala and neighbouring States

The price of tomato, an essential ingredient in everyday cooking, has gone up to between ₹100 and ₹120 a kg in markets across the State. The price looks set to rise in the near future with heavy rain lashing every part of Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka from where most of the commodity is sourced.

Scientists studying extreme climatic conditions and the relation to farm production hint at tomato prices giving us a glimpse of the shape of things to come. Soil erosion, flooding of fields, and increasing humidity have disrupted farming operations. Soil erosion will call for more fertilizer application while increasing humidity will trigger more pest attacks.

In Kerala’s rice barn Palakkad, 3,975 ha of paddy crop has been lost to heavy rain. The loss has hit more than 10,600 farmers, says an official of the Agriculture Department.

1.86 farmers hit

Crops across the spectrum, from ginger and turmeric to Nendran banana and tapioca, have taken a hit. As per estimates, 55,919 ha has been hit by extreme weather between October 12 and this week. The crop loss has hit 1.86 lakh farmers and the loss is estimated at ₹700 crore.

Alappuzha has recorded the maximum loss at 25,743 ha while 9,284 ha in Thrissur has seen affected. Tapioca has also taken a hit, the crop vulnerable to flooding.

B. Ajithkumar of the Department of Agricultural Meteorology, Kerala Agricultural University, says Kerala has received heavy rain this season. The season’s rainfall between October 1 and October 6 has seen a 68% increase against the long-term average. The actual rainfall was 98.7 mm against the normal of 58.6 mm.

Pathanamthitta has seen 210% increase in rain from the normal average while Kasaragod received 154% more rain than the long-term average. Wayanad saw 156% and Palakkad 116% more rain than the normal levels during the period.

Shortage of supplies

N.H. Shameed, a vegetable wholesaler in Kochi, attributes the rise in vegetable prices to a shortage of supplies from locations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Big onion, tomato, cool season vegetables, potato, and garlic are sourced from other States, he says.

According to estimates, Kerala produces around 12 lakh tonnes of vegetables a year. An equal volume is imported from other States yearly though no figures are available for the actual import volume.

S.S. Nagesh, head of the agriculture division of the Kerala State Planning Board, says the Subhiksha Kerala programme, launched in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak for intense agricultural activities, has resulted in significant increase in farm production. But he warns of the climatic conditions in which the loss of sunny days, among other problems, leading to more obstacles for farm production.

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