See­saw­ing veg prices a headache for all

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Shaadya Is­mail

Veg­eta­bles have be­come 75 per cent more ex­pen­sive in the peak sea­son than in the off-sea­son and some­how this gap must be bridged, a top re­search group said.

The gap be­tween peak and off- peak prices has been ex­ac­er­bated by heavy show­ers in the past weeks, the Hec­tor Kobbekaduwa Agrar­ian Re­search and Train­ing In­sti­tute ( HARTI) said.

“There is a 40- 50 per cent re­duc­tion in the sup­ply of veg­eta­bles to the mar­ket these days, hence prices have shot up,” the in­sti­tute’s Se­nior Re­search Of­fi­cer, W .H .D . Priyadar­shana, said.

He em­pha­sised that in­ad­e­quate stor­age and trans­porta­tion fa­cil­i­ties ag­gra­vated sup­ply short­ages.

Mr. Priyadar­shana said Novem­ber, De­cem­ber and Jan­uary mark a tran­si­tional pe­riod be­tween the end of the Yala sea­son har­vest­ing and the begin­ning of the Maha sea­son and “gen­er­ally dur­ing this time the sup­ply of veg­eta­bles de­creases as these months are used for land prepa­ra­tion for the next sea­son”.

Such fluc­tu­a­tions should be min­imised by long- term so­lu­tions such as build­ing cool rooms and pro­cess­ing cen­tres, Mr. Priyadar­shana said.

Ad­dress­ing the in­fa­mous is­sue of mid­dle­men he said it was im­por­tant the mar­ket had them to bridge the gap be­tween the farmer and the buyer but too many mid­dle­men were harm­ful to the mar­ket.

Con­sumer ad­vo­cates said force­fully that mid­dle­men cre­ated huge losses to both farm­ers and con­sumers.

“The mid­dle­man is the rea­son for the cur­rent mal­func­tion­ing of the mar­ket, plun­der­ing both the farmer and the con­sumer,” the head of the Na­tional Move­ment for Con­sumer Rights Pro t e c t i o n , R a n j i t h Vithanage, said. They should be con­trolled by a reg­u­la­tory body, he said.

He warned that with veg­eta­bles now sell­ing for more than Rs. 400 a kilo the coun­try faced a sit­u­a­tion where sta­ple food would not con­tain veg­eta­bles be­cause of their cost.

The All-is­land Farm­ers' Fed­er­a­tion agreed with HARTI’s call for long-term veg­etable stor­age to min­imise waste.

“Ev­ery day, 40 per cent of the har­vested veg­eta­bles are thrown out due to the lack of proper stor­age fa­cil­i­ties,” the fed­er­a­tion’s Na­tional Org aniser, Na­mal Karunaratne said.

Mr. Karunaratne said farm­ers were leav­ing the land be­cause they could not cope with fluc­tu­at­ing prices for their pro­duce.

He said farm­ers should be trained to cater to mar­ket needs and plan their cul­ti­va­tion to re­duce wastage.

The Agri­cul­ture Min­istry re­jected claims that mid­dle­men caused sig­nif­i­cant changes in veg­etable prices, say­ing the rains were to blame.

“The coun­try ini­tially ex­pe­ri­enced drought, as a re­sult of which farm­ers did not cul­ti­vate, and when a con­sid­er­able amount of rains were re­ceived they started cul­ti­vat­ing only to find, to their dis­may, that weather con­di­tions wors­ened and a lot of crops, es­pe­cially veg­eta­bles, were de­stroyed,” min­istry Me­dia Di­rec­tor W.M.D.Wan­ni­nayake said.

He said prices would in­crease as Christ­mas and New Year drew closer and then drop in Jan­uary.

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