First came the pay cut. And now food prices are going through the roof. Rishika Mehta, a Delhi banker, said she has been dealt twin blows amid a raging pandemic.
“Experts advise us to eat healthy and boost immunity but I don’t know how to buy these costly vegetables and fruits,” said the 39-year old. There are thousands like her who are feeling the same pinch. In the past couple of weeks, prices of rice, edible oils, pulses, sugar, vegetables and fruits have spiralled in Delhi. This is because multiple hikes in fuel prices have sent transportation costs soaring.
‘Bad taste’ in mouth
The prices of capsicum, ladies’ finger, tomato and bottle gourd have more than doubled in many areas of the National Capital. Tomato available at Rs15-20 a kg las week was sold at Rs 55-60 a kg in retail markets of South Delhi’s Saket on Wednesday. Onion has shot up from Rs 15 a kg to Rs 25 a kg in the last few days.
Many families have started reducing options. Amrita Vashisht, a homemaker in South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, said, “Earlier we used to buy a lot of seasonal fruits. But now, we can’t afford them every day. My husband’s business is already impacted due to the lockdown.
Vegetable prices are also spiralling.” Traders said since restaurants, dhabas, canteens and eateries have opened, the demand for vegetables has increased by almost 20 per cent. Retail prices have also spiked due to this.
Fuelling a crisis
Fuel prices across the Metros, including Delhi, have increased on 22 of the past 24 days as oil marketing companies kept gas station rates of petrol and diesel unchanged. In the National Capital on Tuesday, petrol sold at Rs 80.43 per litre and diesel at Rs 80.53 per litre. Diesel becoming costlier than petrol is a rarity.
“Transportation costs have increased in the last three weeks,” said Raj Kumar Bhatia, member, Azadpur fruits and vegetable market committee.
Rice, pulses, oil, sugar on fire too
Bhisam Sain, a wholesale grocery supplier in Central Delhi’s Khari Baoli, said prices of all food essentials have gone up in the past two weeks. Rice generally comes from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, while pulses come from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
“Since, transportation costs have increased by Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000, we have also increased wholesale rates of rice and pulses by Rs 5 per kg.
Basmati rice of Punjab having sold earlier at Rs 70 per kg is now available at Rs 75 a kg. Retailers are selling it in a price range of Rs 90 to Rs 100 a kg.” he said. Toor dal available at Rs 40 a kg in wholesale markets is now costing Rs 48 a kg and retailers are selling it for Rs 65 per kg. The per kg rates of gram and moong daal are Rs 60 and Rs 55, respectively, which are Rs 5 to Rs 8 higher than earlier prices.
“Mustard oil was available at Rs 85 to Rs 90 per litre in wholesale markets and retailers were selling it for Rs 110. Now, our price is Rs 105 and retailers are selling it for Rs 135,” traders said.
“The per litre price of refined oil has increased by Rs 15 Rs in wholesale markets. Sugar is Rs 45 to Rs 50 per kg. Premium quality sugar is Rs 60 per kg,” Sunil Grover, retailer in Sadar Bazaar, said.
Floods also a factor
Transportation costs also depend on route lengths. Floods in many states have forced truckers to burn more fuel.
“There are floods as many rivers are in spate. Retailers also add local transportation costs in cities. As premium products reach posh localities of South Delhi, New Delhi and DLF City in Gurugram, prices go up further,” Bhatia said.
Sachin Bhagat, another Azadpur trader, said, “Currently, tomato is coming from Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.
Hence prices are up. Similarly, onion comes from Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Potato comes from UP.”
Situation may worsen
“If diesel prices continue to go up, the situation will worsen. The government must provide some relief,” said Surender Goswami, president Gazipur wholesale market.
Dr Harish Sabbarwal, chairman (finance) of All India Motor Transport Corporation, said, “We do not understand why Centre is increasing prices of petrol and diesel despite global crude oil prices being at an alltime low. We stood by this government when trains and air routes closed.”
The corporation said that 30% drivers have left jobs due to insecurity. It has demanded from the government to bring drivers and conductors under its insurance policy. “We have an option to lock down our bus and truck services for unlimited periods,” he said.
Both Congress and AAP have hit the roads to protest the fuel price hikes.
“The crude oil prices have been reducing in the international market. But the Modi government is not decreasing them when common man is living in Corona pandemic,” said Gopal Rai, senior AAP minister.
The party held protests in many cities, including Delhi.
(With inputs from Chayyanika Nigam in New Delhi)