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Prices on Essential Goods Witness Massive Hike as Traders Manipulate Supply in Open Market

CC0 / / Vegetables
Vegetables - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): Widespread panic has hit India, with many claiming that the country is yet to see the peak of the coronavirus’ spread, which is currently at stage two of local transmission. As a result, people are lining up outside grocery stores and hoarding essential commodities in preparation for a possible lockdown.

Prominent markets in Delhi that sell vegetables and other essential goods are facing scarce a supply of products, with retailers accusing wholesale suppliers of manipulation in the time of the coronavirus crisis.

Grocery sellers say that their shops have turned empty as wholesalers have choked the supply of vegetables, releasing it gradually with an increase in price. This has put the burden on the retail sellers, who have exhausted their stocks as people have resorted to panic hoarding vegetables.

"Taking advantage of the situation, wholesalers are not only choking the supply of products but have also increased its prices in the past few days. We cannot transfer this cost burden on consumers", said Rajiv Bansal, a local grocery store owner in West Delhi, told Sputnik.

Prices on vegetables and fruits (potatoes, onion, papaya, etc.) also jumped by at least 40 percent in the last three days alone.

“Two days back, I had purchased 50 kilograms of potato at INR 850 (approx. $11), but on Thursday, the price increased to INR 1,300 (approx. $17.32). Similar trends were witnessed for green vegetables as well. Wholesaler are also claiming that supply of vegetables from nearby states has been disrupted due to the partial lockdown announced by nearby states”, Vinod Kumar, who has been selling vegetables in South Delhi, told Sputnik.

The situation was the same in other markets in Delhi as well.

On Thursday evening, in his address to the nation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that there is ample supply of essential goods in the country and that people should not panic.

“Do not indulge in panic buying. India has enough food and ration supplies”, he said.

While the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), the apex body of the business community in the country, has maintained that no trade association has decided to close the markets in the wake of coronavirus, it did not rule out the possibility of such a decision in consultation with government.

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, CAIT, said: “Trade leaders will consider all pros and cons of any shutdown of the markets as the shops of the traders are first point contact for 130 crore people for meeting their requirements”.

While the current situation has already impacted the earnings of daily wage earners, the increase in prices on commodities and shutting down of essential commodity markets would deliver a major blow to the daily wagers, who are already bearing the brunt of the lack of supplies and inflation in the country.

Daily wage earners operate in the informal economy, which comprises 90 percent of the total economy. There are around 195 million wage earners, 62 percent (i.e. 121 million) are employed as casual workers in India. Government data suggests that despite an increase in employment in the organised sector, many jobs are casual or informal. In India, daily wagers survive on what they earn on a day-to-day basis.

India currently has 171 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, while four patients have lost their lives to the infection. The country has scaled up its measures, grounding all international flights to contain the spread. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a one-day “Janata Curfew” on Sunday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm (IST) as a combat measure to tackle the coronavirus.

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