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India: Vegetable prices fall hard due to shutdown

Vegetable prices fell drastically in the farming regions on the first day of a three-day hartal because of a lack of transport to carry the produce to the capital amid fears of violence and arson. The falling prices put vegetable growers in despair, with many fearing that they will not be able to get back their investments. But in the cities, mainly Dhaka, consumers have to pay extra bucks to buy essentials, including vegetables, because of a disruption in supply.

“Prices of most items have dropped to a third of the prices we got two days ago due to the hartal. It has put us in a huge mess,” Mohammad Shah Alam, a vegetable grower at Mohastan Bogra, told The Daily Star by phone. Alam took cauliflowers to a wholesale market at Mohastan near Mohastangarh in Bogra yesterday. He sold his produce for Tk 5 a kilogram, though the price was Tk 15 on Friday.

Alam is not the only one who had to count such losses. Almost all farmers who are involved in the commercial cultivation of vegetables to cater to the needs of cities like Dhaka had to bear the brunt. “We have to harvest vegetables at maturity. The sales value of the vegetables falls unless we harvest at the right time,” he said.
Since January, the nation witnessed 41 countrywide strikes enforced by the opposition parties.

Trading activities, including retail and hotels and restaurants, were hampered and the incomes of hawkers, rickshaw van pullers and transport workers fell.
“We do not see prices fall for a single day hartal, but a prolonged strike affects us badly. if the hartals continue for a political stalemate, it will be difficult for me to realise my investments,” said Alam. Some of the farmers sold cauliflowers at Tk 4 a kg, he said.

Farmers had to sell vegetables such as radish, eggplant, cucumber and gourd at very low prices yesterday, compared to the previous day, said Rahedul Islam, a wholesaler at a vegetables wholesale market in Mohastan, Bogra. Prices of radishes fell to Tk 3 a kilogram yesterday from Tk 15 the previous day, said Islam.
“We are not that interested in buying as transport service providers are unwilling to take the risk and go to Dhaka during hartals,” he said. Tariqul Islam, a vegetable grower at Kodalia in Jessore, said he had to sell large eggplants at Tk 20 a kilogram. On Thursday, he got Tk 29 for the same.

This fall in prices is mainly because of a lack of buyers in the markets for the hartal, he said. “As vegetables are perishable and there is no scope for storing, we have to accept whatever prices the traders offer. Our vulnerability increases during hartals.”

Source: the Daily Star

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