More than half of the lower middle class population has been forced to skip or squeeze their budgets for fresh fruits because of the rising prices of seasonal fruits, according to
a survey conducted by Assocham.
According to the Assocham paper, Mango, the king of Indian fruits selling at Rs 100 a kg in the retail market while the premium variety Alphonso is costing Rs 200 -400 per dozen, courtesy unseasonal rains which resulted in production loss up to 50 percent in some states.
Bananas which used to sell at Rs 30-40 per dozen in the past year are now retailing at Rs 60-65 per dozen. A single banana sells for Rs 5 to Rs 7 at different stalls. Apples sell at double the price of last year with the prices of imported varieties going further up, adds the paper.
Similarly, grapes are easily available in the market, but they are beyond the reach of the common man because the regular types of grapes sell for around Rs 120 per kg.
The maximum impact has been felt in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Pune, the survey said. While 87 percent of the respondents said that rising food prices have made their life even tougher, 66 percent of the respondents felt that vegetables at current prices are not even an option for a family of six, where the monthly salary is Rs 10,000-15,000, said the majority of respondents.
Almost all fruits and vegetables in the metro cities markets have become costlier, with many becoming out of the reach of the middle class family. Prices of brinjal, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes, besides fruits, have also gone up," Assocham Secretary General DS Rawat said while releasing the survey.
The survey also found that low-income groups and people under-35 are increasingly cutting back on nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits because they can no longer afford them.
About 78 percent of the female respondents covered in the survey said that efforts to keep the kitchen budget intact have failed and most of them have switched over to pre-cooked and ready-to-eat food items to cut down on expenses.
According to the survey, 67 percent of the vegetarians covered said they face even more problems due to the steep increase in prices of vegetables and fruits. As per the survey, the low-income households cut the amount of nutrients food by 25-30 percent. The average household is being forced to turn to cheaper alternatives. Popular summer fruits like mangoes, apple, muskmelon etc. have also gone beyond reached of common man and touched almost a 45 percent price rise.
According to a report published by Assocham reveals that there is a gap between Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation and the level measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has been increasing pointing towards supply chain inefficiencies and too many layers of traders and vendors. Prices of vegetables are soaring consistently and much before they reach the end consumer another 30-50 per cent of it rises as it passes through a chain of middlemen.
As per the survey, most of the low-income families are highly dependent on vegetables to make their main meal as pulses are already out of their reach since several years ago.
The poor handling practices that result in wastage are a part of the problem as well. There are estimates that the country currently wastes between 40 percent and 60 percent of its fruits.