Vegetable prices sky-rocketed in Chennai and some parts of Tamil Nadu on May 23, Sunday, just a day after Chief Minister MK Stalin announced an extension to the state-wide lockdown. Visuals of people panic-buying in several parts of the state too emerged. The lockdown has been extended by a week until May 31, with stricter restrictions. The government announced that markets and shops would be allowed to stay open until 9 pm on both days of the weekend.
Many shared on social media that local shops in their area were charging double or sometimes even more than double the normal rate for vegetables. Reacting to the news, R Sakkarapani, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, warned that strict action would be taken against vegetable shop owners and traders who were raising prices. “We will not hesitate to take action against such traders under the Food Protection Act. We also hope traders too will cooperate and ensure such a situation does not arise,” the Minister told reporters on Sunday.
Speaking to TNM, Rajasekaran Duraisamy of the Koyambedu Wholesale Market Complex, Periya Kaikari Angadi Anaithu Sangangalin Kootamaipu (federation of sellers associations), claimed that the rates spiked only for a couple of hours on Sunday. “It was because there was a delay in a load of vegetables arriving on Sunday morning. High rates were only for a few hours in the morning,” he said.
However, vegetable sellers from across the city of Chennai, for which the Koyambedu market functions as the main nodal point of distribution, continued to sell vegetables at hiked prices on Sunday.
Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaipu (federation of traders association) told the news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai that strict measures are being taken by the association to ensure a fair price for vegetables and warned of severe action against sellers who go against instructions. “We have strictly advised against the price hike. It happened in the morning but we immediately intervened and prevented it from continuing. We have also warned the sellers from hiking prices, those who go against it will be removed from the Union,” he said.
Vikramaraja, President of Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaipu, further added that as already announced, the Koyambedu market along with the Horticulture Department will ensure that fruits and vegetables are made available in every street using mobile vehicles through the coming week of full lockdown.