Friday, August 26, 2011


Can any one dispute the fact that fruits and vegetables constitute the most important dietary component that can ensure sound health? Nutritionists world over have come to the conclusion that human beings must consume at least 4-5 servings of these vital foods every day as they are rich sources of many micro nutrients as well as fiber. Unfortunately gross distortions caused by cheap processed foods most of which are calorie rich in stead of being nutrient dense have pulled the consumers towards the former under economic compulsions. When such is the scenario, what justification any country can have in allowing these protective foods priced exorbitantly, making them beyond the reach of common man? Of course governments can always wring their hand saying that in a free market, prices are government by demand-supply dynamics! In India food inflation now raging between 9 and 10% is driven by the high prices for fruits and vegetables and such a situation is happening because of the skewed production and market policies of the government which allow "middle men" and pre-harvest contractors a free hand in dictating the consumer price. How long this can continue in a poor country like India? Obviously GOI does not seem to have any clue!

"India's food inflation turned higher in the week ended June 23 due to costlier fruits and vegetables, underscoring expectations that stubborn price pressures won't fade anytime soon and firming expectations of continued monetary policy tightening. Food inflation during the week accelerated to 8.04% from a year earlier, compared with 7.33% the week before, data issued Thursday by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry showed. On a week-on-week basis, the wholesale price index for food articles fell a marginal 0.6%. Nitesh Ranjan, an economist with Union Bank Of India, said the slight easing in the food index could be due to the prolonged rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of India. Still, it would take five to six weeks of continuous easing before a sustainable decline in inflation is seen, he added. The RBI has raised its key policy rate 11 times since March 2010 and is widely expected to raise it by a further 0.50 percentage point by March to tame inflation that has been at uncomfortably high levels for more than two years. The bond market drew some comfort from the week-on-week decline in the index for food as well as primary articles. The fall, even though marginal, gave some hope that food prices could see a sustained downtrend if monsoon rains progress normally".

There are grandiose plans and schemes announced from time to time for raising the production of fruits and vegetables but very little is happening at the ground level as reflected by the widely fluctuating market prices for these foods. Added to this the market prices are manipulated by traders during festivities which are many in the country. How can a consumer cope with a 100% increase in the price of any fresh produce during a particular festival, whether Ramzan or Diwali or Christmas, as is happening now? Since 1947 when India achieved independence, there has been only feeble efforts to establish the much needed infrastructure like cold storage, cold chain, MAS facilities etc which, if in place, could even out the prices between harvesting seasons. Probably Indian citizen is paying for the prolonged neglect of this sector by successive governments with short vision!


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