Govt fails to control surging vegetable prices

Kathmandu, November 20

Against the direction of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to responsible government bodies to control mounting vegetable prices in the market, price of major vegetable items have been constantly increasing.

PMO, on November 13, had directed Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) and Ministry of Supplies (MoS) to ensure effective supply of vegetables in the market and control overpricing. However, vegetables are constantly getting dearer in the market following lack of effective intervention from the government.

In fact, very few vegetables cost less than Rs 100 per kilogram in the retail market at present. While one kg of tomato costs more than Rs 110 in the retail market, cauliflower costs Rs 120 per kg. Similarly, cowpea (bodi) and cabbage are retailed at more than Rs 120 per kg and Rs 100 per kg, respectively, in the market while bitter gourd (titey karela) also costs Rs 100 per kg.

If we are to compare the current price of these vegetables with their price exactly a year ago, their prices have almost doubled and even government officials accept it.

However, MoAD Spokesperson Yogendra Karki is optimistic that vegetable prices will start to drop in the coming weeks.

“Price of different vegetables has been increasing at present owing to low production in the country. The price will start dwindling once farmers begin to harvest different seasonal vegetables,” said Karki.

Echoing Karki, officials of the Kalimati Fruits and Market Development Board informed that the Kathmandu Valley market has been receiving only 500 tonnes of vegetables at present against the normal demand of 700 tonnes.

However, consumer right activists refuse to accept the reasons given by officials for the rise in vegetable prices. “Vegetable prices have not gone up at sources (farmlands). It is the middlemen traders who have been hiking up vegetable prices citing plummeting production,” claimed Madhav Timalsina, president of Consumer’s Right Investigation Forum (CRIF).

According to him, traders have been fixing vegetable prices without any scientific mechanism.

The Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers’ Interest (DoSMPCI) — the responsible body of the government to control overpricing of goods in the market — said that price of vegetables cannot be controlled just by the means of monitoring. “All stakeholders should discuss ways to introduce effective mechanism to fix vegetable prices,” said Kumar Prasad Dahal, director general of DoSMPCI.