Vegetable prices spike as cold wave grips Terai belt

February 08, 2018

Naresh Neupane, The Kathmandu Post Daily, February 08, 2018

Feb 8, 2018-A cold wave sweeping across the Tarai has not only made life hard for locals but also sent vegetable prices shooting up in the Kathmandu Valley. Prices of fresh produce have been swelling from last month after temperatures in the southern plains, the country’s key vegetable producing region, started to plunge.

The intense cold has led to a drop in vegetable production in the Tarai, and the Valley’s requirement is being fulfilled by supplies from surrounding areas like Dhading, Kavre and Palung. However, demand outstrips supply, which has caused prices to rise steeply, traders said.

Farmers in Rautahat and Sarlahi said that the winter crops like lentils and vegetables had been affected badly. But experts said that the chilly weather was good for wheat as it helps to boost yield. They said that the vegetable crop had been hit by a disease resulting in low production.

The result of the sudden fluctuation in the weather has been a sharp rise in veggie prices in the Valley, the key consumer of fresh produce. According to retailers in the Kalimati vegetable market, prices have jumped up to 111 percent in the past month. All vegetables have become dearer. Prices of sword bean, brinjal long, brinjal round, cauliflower, cucumber, French beans, yam, cauliflower local and bottle gourd have jumped more than 50 percent. Sword bean that used to cost Rs45 per kg a month ago now costs Rs95. Similarly, prices of brinjal long and round have gone up from Rs38 per kg to Rs68 within a month.

Likewise, French bean now costs Rs115 per kg in the retail market, up from Rs75 previously. Similarly, prices of green onion, spinach leaf, squash, capsicum and mushroom have seen a substantial rise within a month.

Vegetable shopper Shubhadra Tiwari said that prices of vegetables didn’t look like cooling soon. Customers like Tiwari have been avoiding off-season vegetables as they normally cost more.

However, prices of vegetables like dry onion, potato and tomato have dropped. The retail price of red potato has decreased from Rs43 per kg to Rs38, while white potato now costs Rs33 per kg, down from Rs38 before.

Retailers in the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market, the largest vegetable market in the country, are worried that high prices might keep potential customers away.

Vegetable retailer Dilli Kumari Rawat at Kalimati said that prices in Kathmandu had been influenced by prices in India. However, statistics show that prices of most imported vegetables like potatoes and onions have dropped.

Another retailer Purna Maya Katwal said that vegetable prices had seen a massive upswing in just one month. She attributed the rise to low production and productivity in Nepal and India.

Nepal relies heavily on imports for vegetables like potato, onion and garlic. According to the statistics of the Department of Customs, vegetable imports in the first half of the fiscal year were valued at Rs11.36 billion.