Supply crisis looms as arrival of vegetables, fruits down sharply at Delhi’s Azadpur mandi

Published: May 4, 2020 12:30:59 AM

Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, the country’s largest market yard for these items, saw arrivals of onion, tomato and potato drop by 14-31% during April 16-30 from the previous fortnight.

The worst fears of a major disruption of the food supply chain due to the prolonged lockdown might come true.

By Prabhudatta Mishra

The worst fears of a major disruption of the food supply chain due to the prolonged lockdown might come true. While 40-50% of the fruits and vegetables output, including the crop harvested over the last few weeks and the standing crop, is estimated to have perished due to the absence/shortage of labour and transport, market arrivals are learnt to have slumped further in the second fortnight of April.

Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, the country’s largest market yard for these items, saw arrivals of onion, tomato and potato drop by 14-31% during April 16-30 from the previous fortnight. The arrivals of other vegetables also saw up to 74% decline in the second fortnight of April over the previous one. Coronavirus positive cases reported among Aadpur mandi traders have dented the arrivals and transactions.

When compared with the year-ago period, arrivals in the April second fortnight were 45-85% lower, in what showed the extent of supply chain disruption.

Onion and potato prices at Azadpur mandi in April 16-30 period were almost double the level in the year ago-period, but tomato prices were down. It is not clear how much the farmers have benefitted from the higher prices; anyway the large drop in volumes must have offset price gains, if any.

As reported by FE earlier, average prices of four out of five major rabi crops — wheat, chana, mustard and barley — were up to 15% below their minimum support prices in the past month. In states where the mandi arrivals are higher, the prices of these crops were lower than the all-India average rates. The prices remained subdued even as gross market arrivals of these four crops are only about 25-30% of the year-ago levels.

As Delhi’s Azadpur mandi is dependent on vegetable supplies from nearby places of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other states, the restriction on movement of produce at Sonepat (Haryana) affected arrivals. Besides, there is also a fear after positive cases emerged in the mandi,” said Adil Ahmad Khan, chairman of APMC, Azadpur. He asked traders not to spread ‘negative news’ about the mandi situation as that was pushing back aggregators.

All the fruits and vegetables coming to Azadpur are getting sold, Khan said and added that the demand for these items have gone down considerably following closure of hotels, restaurants, canteens and other establishments. As a trading hub, Azadpur also caters to demands from all the major consuming centres of the northern region, all of which have also been severely affected. The APMC has been enforcing social distancing by regulating trucks movement through coupon system while sanitizing the premises regularly.

The local administration has confirmed 17 positive cases of Covid 19 in Azadpur mandi while 43 traders and employees have been quarantined. About 80% of the total retail arrivals of fruits and vegetables in Delhi are routed via Azadpur mandi. As many as 28 shops have been sealed inside the mandi. As a result, the daily arrivals have fallen to about 5,000 tonne on May 2 from 7000-8,000 tonne immediately after lockdown was announced in March, mandi officials said.

According to consumer affairs ministry data, retail prices of onion, tomato and potato have reduced to Rs 30-31/kg as on April 30 from Rs 38-39/kg on April 1 in Delhi. In the same period the all India average retail prices of potato and tomato were at Rs 20/kg while onion fell to Rs 20/kg from Rs 30/kg.

Data across mandis show only 4.67 lakh tonne of onion crop arrived during March, against 12.11 lakh tonne in the year-ago period. Similarly, arrivals of potato and tomato in March were 6.55 lakh tonne and 1.7 lakh tonne, respectively, against 12.34 lakh tonne and 2.11 lakh tonne, in the same month last year. In April, the arrivals of onion and tomato were nearly at the same level as in the previous month levels while there was drop of nearly 30% (m-o-m) in potato supplies as recorded in mandis.

“The government should think about future as the current restriction has reduced demand for fruits and vegetables. As a result, many farmers have decided to leave the field vacant which will impact the supplies in July since they used to take one vegetable crop between rabi harvest and kharif sowing (1.5-2 months duration). There should be some compensation for these vegetable growers who have not been able to sell their produce due to lack of demand,” said Pushpendra Singh, president of Kisan Shakti Sangh. Unless the vegetable growers are motivated now, there could be spike in rates due to lower supplies, he added.

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