Vegetables become dearer on higher gasoline prices

Vegetables and fruits have become dearer as higher gasoline prices push up the cost of transportation, making Kathmandu residents wince.

“The rise in the price of vegetables is hitting our monthly budget,” said Naikap local Laxmi Prasad Lamichhane. “With the prices of household items like cooking oil and cooking gas soaring, we are having trouble managing our savings.”

According to Anil Basnet, founder and CEO of online grocery, overall inflation has hit vegetable prices too. “The rise in transportation and labor costs has pushed up the price of vegetables by 50-60 percent, both imported and locally produced.”

In mid-July last year, cargo carriers serving routes in the Tarai and hills were permitted to hike freight charges by 26 and 20 percent respectively by the Department of Transport Management.

Petrol and diesel now cost Rs155 and Rs138 per litre respectively, up from Rs118 and Rs101 per litre a year ago.

“Transportation and labor charges have swollen by 30 percent each in the past two months,” said Basnet. “To recover the losses incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, transporters are raising the freight charges,” he added.

“Shippers used to charge Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 for moving 2,400 to 2,500 kg of vegetables from Chitwan to Kathmandu. Now the cost has increased to Rs14,000 to Rs15,000 per trip,” Basnet told the Post.

Tomato big and small (local, Indian and Tarai), which costs Rs35 to Rs75 per kg wholesale at the Kalimati vegetable and fruit market, is being sold at Rs100 to Rs125 per kg in the retail market.

Retailers charge Rs90-100 per kg for eggplant which costs Rs40-50 per kg in Kalimati. Bottle gourd which costs Rs50-60 per kg wholesale costs Rs90-100 per kg retail.

The price of bitter gourd has reached Rs120-140 per kg and chilli costs Rs75-155 per kg. Cowpea long is priced at Rs80-90 per kg, okra Rs90-100 per kg and pointed gourd Rs80-100 per kg in the Kalimati vegetables and fruit market.

Lamichhane said that he purchased a kilo of tomato for Rs120 from a nearby vegetable shop. “Buying vegetables is a nightmare, but I have to buy them daily as otherwise there will be nothing to cook in the kitchen for our meals,” he said.

Vegetables are costlier in the neighborhood bazaars of Kathmandu than in the Kalimati fruits and vegetable market. Retailers have been hiking the prices of vegetables under different pretexts, say shoppers.

According to Nepal Rastra Bank, vegetable and fruit inflation increased by 14.07 percent and 4.40 percent respectively in the first seven months of the current fiscal year ended mid-February, compared to the same period in the last fiscal year 2020-21.

As per the report, Nepal’s imports of fresh produce jumped by 26.1 percent to Rs11.44 billion in the first seven months of the current fiscal year compared to the same period in the last fiscal year.

The country imported vegetables worth Rs15.27 billion in the last fiscal year. India fulfils Nepal’s vegetable requirement.

Fruit imports from India surged by 17.1 percent to Rs5.80 billion in the first seven months of the current fiscal year compared to the same period of the last fiscal year. Nepal imported fruits valued at Rs10.35 billion in the last fiscal year.

Nepal imports mainly onion, lemon, potato and green vegetables from India.

“A drop in production and rise in consumption has increased the vegetable and fruit import bill,” Basnet said. “Many vegetable traders closed down during the coronavirus pandemic due to prolonged lockdowns which were imposed twice in the past two years.”

Basnet added that vegetable prices would rise during the upcoming election season as elections push up costs.

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