Why are vegetable prices rising?
Vegetable prices, especially the price of potatoes, have taken a sharp increase in recent days, causing frustration among the public as people are forced to stop purchasing a staple of their diet.
When you ask a clerk who works for a supermarket selling vegetables or grocery shop why vegetable prices have been increasing in recent days, they will tell you that prices of vegetables being sold in Bars Market, the largest wholesale food market in Ulaanbaatar, are rising, and they need to increase prices too to make a profit.
In reality, few people who own big grocery warehouses have taken control of the food market, and they get more profits in the spring and summer sessions by selling vegetables that were stored in their warehouses since the last harvest for high prices.
A grocer at Bars Market said that vegetable prices always shoot up at this time of the year before harvest and prices will go down in August when new vegetables enter the market.
The grocer emphasized that potato price seems to be higher by nearly 300 MNT per kg than it was last year, but it is natural and that people should understand that summer is a time of shortage, and as demand spikes prices rise too.
Grocers at Bars Market only buy from few people doing grocery business with bigger warehouses, and they supply retailers throughout Ulaanbaatar, even many places around the capital increased prices intentionally.
Potatoes is a crucial source of food for people, and many worry about the quality of the cheaper, unsafe and unhealthy food they have been consuming over the years, but they can’t simply stop consuming them as they cannot afford better quality food.
Many people used cheap Chinese potatoes from the beginning of 1990s until late last summer, when President Kh.Battulga made the decision to stop importing potatoes from abroad to support domestic farmers and enhance the nation’s food security.
After the president’s decision, many farmers and people commended his decision, and some domestic farm- ers told the president that as a result of his ban on importing potatoes, especially those from China, they are now able to fully supply the demand of their region and that people are able to consume organic potatoes with better quality. However, Chinese potatoes are still being sold in grocery stores today.
When asked how they are able to import Chinese potatoes despite the president’s ban, some of grocers replied that potatoes are still entering throught eh border as nobody adheres to the rules and laws in Mongolia, while others said that some grocery businesses had stored Chinese potatoes in their warehouses before the president’s ban.
Many believe that some are still bringing potatoes to Mongolia from abroad by bribing customs officers.
As domestic potato prices rise, the price of Chinese potatoes is also increasing, which already doubled since the president’s ban last year.
In a TV interview, a man running a wholesale potato business noted that after the president banned the importation of potatoes, domestic farmers’ incomes increased because supply of cheap Chinese potatoes ended, and so they started increasing the price of potatoes.
In reality, wholesalers who own bigger warehouses buy tons of cheap potatoes, at rates around 300 to 400 MNT per kg, during harvest session and sell potatoes for six or sevenfold the original price the next summer.
Farmers say that storing potatoes to keep them fresh is not hard compared to other vegetables, and of course, wholesalers spend a lot of money and make a lot of efforts to keep potatoes fresh by optimizing storage temperatures, and other conditions. But this does not justify the unrealistic prices, which means grocery and meat wholesalers are playing with the livelihood of the nation.
Some government officials and farmers claim that the Mongolian farmers can meet the domestic demand for potatoes, but in reality, they aren’t able to do so.
The state makes decisions for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises and domestic production, and developing agriculture and livestock sectors, but government officials neglect the activity to hold companies doing illegal businesses accountable. The end result is the violation of consumer rights and the nation suffers.
Mongolians are still baffled at such unfair and high meat and vegetable prices as the country has over 60 million livestock and over 1.5 million square km of land.