Sun, 07 Jun, 2020

Surviving the food crisis

The recent floods in areas of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka caused a disruption in the supply of milk and vegetables. How are households and businesses dependent on food coping up with the situation?

14th August 2019, 02:10 Hrs


The flooding in parts of Karnataka as well as Goa in the past few days has disrupted life Goa. Due to floods, the supply of necessities of life such as vegetables, milk etc was disrupted, and the prices of these commodities have soared in the past few days. While the surging prices have meant good business for vegetable sellers, households as well as food-based businesses have suffered serious losses and setbacks.   

TG Life spoke to a number of businessmen from food-based service sector to understand the current conditions of the market.   

“Since the last four days, we have been buying vegetables at five times the normal price. While prices of vegetables have shot up in the past few days, we cannot increase our prices to match them, because then we will lose customers,” said Dhaval Mandavia, a restaurant owner from Panaji, adding that many businessmen have chosen to keep their restaurants closed for some time in the face of this crisis, but his family has decided to keep their establishment open to cater to loyal customers.   

Ashish Malkar who runs a tiffin delivery service from Panaji also stated that his business has been hit following the unexpected price-rise in vegetables. “My business has certainly been affected, but I am not that severely hit as I made a trip to Belagavi last week just before the heavy rains caused floods,” said Malkar. 

Lisa Noronha, a homemaker from Chorao revealed that she is making do with pulses at present. “The situation was quite unexpected and we did not stock up on vegetables. So, our vegetables were exhausted soon, and procuring new fresh vegetables is becoming difficult for the past three to four days,” informed Noronha. “The fish too is in short supply as there was a ban on fishing owing to breeding season, and we are quite reluctant to buy fish in the light of the formalin issue,” added the hommemaker.   

Nilima Aradhye, a homemaker from Ramnathi was worried more about the shortage of milk. “When I went to Goa dairy, I was given only a half-litre packet of milk and no more. Some of the cooperative societies around Ponda have temporarily suspended business while there are long queues of people at other places,” she stated. “We are reluctant to buy tetra packs of milk because it may not be fresh, and it has to be finished as soon as possible.   

However, Prasad Dangui, a canteen owner at Merces faced a rather difficult situation. “We faced considerable loss due to increase in prices of vegetables and even considered suspending the business for a few days. However, that is not a viable option, because we have to keep operating, at least to cover the costs and pay our suppliers,” Dangui stated.   

On the other hand, William Aguiar, a vegetable seller from Ponda associated with Goa Horticulture Corporation stated that business for him has been rather good. “The recent situation has indeed caused a shortage of vegetables while demand has remained the same. To be honest, this has been beneficial for vegetable sellers. However, we too are finding it difficult to replenish our stores once the veggies are sold out,” said Aguiar.   

Fortunately, at the time of writing this article, conditions in most flood-hit areas were returning to normal, and supplies across most parts were in the process of being resumed. The business owners and householders who spoke to TG Life stated that they expected the present crisis to resolve in a couple of days. While many are on the lookout for local produce but that too is on a higher price and short supply.

The Picture in Belagavi vegetable market

Louis Rodrigues

According to a primary survey, about 1, 60,000 hectares of the total agricultural land in Belagavi and north Karnataka region  has been either submerged or washed away. Apart from paddy, sugarcane and other food crops, there was a huge destruction of vegetable fields, which in turn has adversely affected the supplies of vegetables, resulting in high surge in the prices of vegetables

According to the wholesale vegetable suppliers and traders in Belagavi, the effects may have more impact in the days to come. This is because places like Hebbal, Yamkanmardi, Honaga, Sambra and parts of Chikkodi and Hukkeri talukas from where most of the supplies of vegetables arrive, have received very heavy rains, inundating or washing away the fields.

“Normally, more than 100 loads of vegetables are sent to Goa, but since last Sunday as supplies from farmers have dwindled, only 50 to 60 loads of vegetables are being sent,” Shrikant Pote, a vegetables supplier to Goa  said. On Tuesday, however, the situation was little different in Belagavi market as 40 vehicles of onion, 20 vehicles of potatoes, 20 vehicles of tomatoes and about 80 vehicles of various vegetables arrived in the wholesale vegetable market. Out of these, 70 – 80 vehicle loads will be reaching Goa on Tuesday night. Traders said that due to heavy water clogging in the fields, farmers are plucking tomatoes, cauliflower, green chilly and cabbage as they fear that these crops will get spoilt if kept in their fields for longer period. Thus, prices of tomato, cauliflower, cabbage and green chilly had come down drastically due to increase in supply. 

Highlighting payment factor, the retailers from outside the State who carry out business in Goan vegetable markets are not making payments in time, despite earning lucrative profits from trade. Though the rates are double or marginally more than that, why does Goan retailers increase the prices as high as four times, is the question being asked by Belagavi suppliers.