Traders said labour scarcity will continue to dog operations as many workers have gone home before the government took steps to allow them to work. Many traders are also avoiding the mandis as social distancing, necessary to prevent the spread of Covid-19, is impossible in the wholesale markets.
On Saturday, there was chaos at Vashi APMC in Maharashtra as more than 1000 trucks laden with fruits and vegetables arrived and 25,000 people were present in the market between 2 am and 10 am, generating panic among traders and authorities. Some traders said that they had placed large orders, hoping to make money, which led generated a huge crowd, but supply exceeded demand, causing prices to fall.
Wholesale prices of some vegetables in Delhi fell while supply of grapes, sweet lemon and oranges remained suspended for the last three days.
“We are getting 300-350 trucks of fruits and vegetables as on Saturday,compared to the average 900-1000 trucks in a day. We are catering to the Delhi NCR region, but sales to other neighbouring states have fallen by over 50%, due to transportation issues,” said Parvinder Singh Bhalla of BSB traders in the Azadpur Mandi.
“Fruit supply from Nasik and Delhi is severely affected while vegetables supply has smoothened considerably in the last two days,” said Digvijay Kapoor, president, Chandigarh Sabzi Mandi Shopkeepers Association said.
Panic buying has stopped and sales are similar to the previous months at 220 tonnes across our 310 stores, said Pradipta Sahoo, business head, Safal. “In the past two days we have reduced prices of 80% of vegetables by 10% due to increase availability of summer veggies like bottle gourd, capsicum, cauliflower, onion, tomato and lady finger,”he said.
In Azadpur mandi, prices of onion and tomato fell by 15% in the last three days. Other vegetables are down 8% to 10% in the past two three days.
The Azadpur Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) has threatened stern action against hoarding. However, traders have stopped buying grapes, and oranges until April 2. “Sales to other northern states which Azadpur mandi used to cater, too have stopped, ” said Raj Kumar Bhatia, general secretary of the Chamber of Azadpur fruit and vegetable traders association.
In Bengal officials said maintaining supplies was a challenge. Pradip Mazumdar, agriculture advisor to chief minister Mamata to Banerjee said “There are 450 rice mills in Bengal. They had almost stopped working as the workers had left for home. We have now made them to reopen the mills so that supply of rice is there. We are completely focusing on sourcing of products to keep the supply chain smooth.”
In Kerala, supplies were steady. “Onion is still available at ₹35 per kg despite disruption in the supply from Maharashtra. We are getting supplies from Tamil Nadu,” said K K Ashraf, president of Ernakulam Market Stall Owners Association. Availability of sea fish in the state is poor as most fishing boats are idling.
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