TIRUPATI: While the steady rise in prices of cooking gas, fuel and other essentials have already hurt the common man, a majority of retailers and corporate chain outlets are worsening the consumers' plight further by selling vegetables at prices higher than the wholesale price index.
Normally, the difference between wholesale and retail prices on an average stay around 30 per cent, but this has gone further up. While the state claimed to have tightened steps to check the excessive craze for profit among retail traders, the wholesale traders buying vegetables from farmers and selling them to retailers say they are facing a season of "oppression" even as their margins remained much smaller than that of the retail traders.
Amid these conflicting claims, consumers are the main sufferers. The rising prices of vegetables have been marring their kitchen budget. For instance, according to the AP Rythu Bazaar information system, the rate of tomato at Rythu Bazaars in Chittoor district, which provides a direct interface between farmers and consumers by eliminating middlemen in the trade, is RS 24 per kg. But, in many parts of the district, tomato is being retailed at rates of Rs 50 to Rs 60 a kilo.
Similarly, the Rythu Bazar Rate (RBR) of onion in the district (Chittoor-M.G.H and Tirupati-TUDA) is Rs 38 a kg, whereas in the local markets, retail stores and shopping malls, it is sold at Rs 42, Rs 44-48 and Rs 46-55 respectively.
The RBRs of green chillies, cauliflower, potato, brinjal and okra were Rs 34, Rs 34, Rs 27, Rs 31 and Rs 21 respectively, while in the local market, retail stores and shopping malls, the prices of these vegetables were much higher.
This underscores the widening gaps between the prices at which the procurement is done from farmers and the prices that consumers have to pay for the same. Many feel the retail prices of vegetables can be reduced if the state buys them directly from mandis and sells them to consumers with a reasonable margin.
“For many years, consumers, farmers and middlemen have had a clash of interest when it came to vegetables. Consumers want to buy veggies at the lowest price while farmers wish to sell them at remunerative prices. On the other hand, middlemen want to maximise their margins. If the government intervenes and strikes a balance among these stakeholders, the issue of price fluctuation will be addressed to some extent”, said Naveen Reddy, convener of the Rayalaseema Porata Samithi.