Kochi: Traders in many places of Kerala have been found to exploit the situation in the wake of Covid virus by increasing prices of essential commodities, the main affected being grocery and vegetables. But wholesale prices, except for a few items have been holding steady, say wholesalers. They blame the current price rise on retailers, who they allege are eager to make a quick buck.
The situation was created by the restrictions imposed at inter-state borders which reduced arrivals of such items in the state. With the fall in stocks, consumers also rush to buy essential goods in large quantities which in turn adds to the shortage.
The transport restrictions have also affected the movement of medicines, causing some shortage.
But the the brunt of the price hike has been borne by onion which, together with tomato has shown a sudden spurt in prices. Onion prices hit Rs 90 per kilo from 60 on Wedesday, with retail prices going up to Rs 110 per kilo. Tomato rose from 20 to 30-35. Other vegegables like potato, raw mango, beet root, cauliflower, and items used for condiments also registered similar increase.
Traders complain about restrictions being put on trucks from other states, plus those returning after offloading cargoes, in spite of essential goods being exempted from lockdown restrictions. They point out that Maharashtra is flooded with loads of onion but it is unable to reach here due to the curbs. Even within the state, fewer trucks arrive now in Ernakulam market to offload vegetables.
The resultant fall in supply leads to price rise. With the declaration of the national lockdown for a further period of 14 days over and above what the state government had set, the situation only got worse with the people going for panic buying in hefty volumes. At the same time, since traders would like to stagger the sale of existing stock till the lockdown lasts, sales have been put on hold in many markets.
As for the drugs market, Kerala is a 90 per cent consumer state, and therefore that share of the total volume has to be brought in from other states. Transport restrictions have played spoil sport here too; thus medicines that used to arrive within a week from order states, take two weeks now. Pharmacy owners are apprehensive whether they will have enough stock once the current inventory is exhausted. In this light, All Kerala Chemists' and Druggists' Association has urged Kerala government to itervene urgently.