The prices of green vegetables have witnessed a steep rise in the capital valley in the recent weeks; they have skyrocketed since the end of Tihar and are unlikely to come down in the near future, thanks to poor regulation of the market by the concerned government agencies. In fact, the prices of green vegetables started going up right after the monsoon floods which submerged and destroyed crops of vegetables in most Terai districts. A considerable portion of Kathmandu’s requirement of vegetables is catered by Terai districts, and when the supply from plains dropped, the prices rose suddenly. Then came Dashain followed by Tihar when vegetable prices went even higher. And now they are beyond the reach of many valley dwellers. Kathmandu on average requires 500 metric tons of vegetables daily. However, due to lower production, currently the supply of vegetables is limited to 250 tons, consequently the prices have gone up by as much as 80 per cent in the wholesale market itself and doubled or gone beyond that in the retail shops. The retailers do have a good excuse to raise the prices of vegetables while the consumers have no option but to buy them at high cost or go without them. Unfortunately, the concerned agencies have failed to take any measure to keep constant or bring down vegetable prices; and this time round they have an excuse ready, provincial and federal election to attend to. So when there is short supply and when the government agencies are doing little to regulate the market, vegetable prices are unlikely to come down soon.
The irony in regard to the rise of prices of daily commodities is that the consumers are made to pay a high price but the producers/farmers invariably get paid very little. It’s the suppliers in the middle – wholesalers and retailers – who reap benefits at the cost of consumers and producers. The wholesalers raise the prices, citing the low supply while the retailers raise the costs saying that the wholesalers charged them high; but once increased, the prices rarely tend to drop. Even when the wholesale rates come down, the retailers are not willing to sell their wares cheaper. It’s where the government has a role to play; the government agencies need to take steps to address the discrepancy in the amount received by the producers and paid by the consumers so that the farmers get reasonable rates while the consumers are not made to pay excessively high. There are laws in place to regulate the market that prohibit manipulation of prices by middlemen and successive governments do claim that they will not tolerate any malpractice from suppliers of daily commodities and take stringent action against those involved in unnatural price rise. But there is lack of commitment to see this pledge through and the suppliers raise the prises as and when they wish so, making the consumers pay through their nose. This is exactly the case now. Despite wide coverage of the dearness of vegetables by the media, the government agencies seem to have turned a deaf ear to the matter, leaving the consumers out in the cold.
Jong Youb Kim is the Executive Director of Korean Environment Corporation (K-eco), Chungcheong Region in the Republic of Korea (RoK). A university graduate...