Essentials pinch during Pandemic: 70% households paid 25-100% higher for Tomato, Potato and Onion in 2020


  • ● 71% households are paying more than INR 50/kg for tomato, INR 40/kg for potato, and INR 50/kg for onion
  • ● In 1 month, an average price paid per kilogram for potatoes rose by 30% and onions by 100%, while tomato price paid fell by 15%

November 2, 2020, New Delhi: Retail prices of household necessities, especially tomato, potato and onion have surged at painstaking rates across states of India as supply of these vegetable drops due to heavy rain and flash floods, upsetting homemakers to manage their domestic budget at a time when the earnings of many households across the country has been hit due to the pandemic.

LocalCircles conducted a survey to understand how much extra are people spending to purchase per kilogram of onions, potatoes and tomatoes as consumers show discernment over the rising price of these vegetables since the last two months. It also tried to understand an average amount a household paid this year for buying these vegetables as compared to 2019. The survey received more than 16,000 responses from citizens across 242 districts of India. Of which, 58% were from tier 1, 23% from tier 2, and 17% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.

To the first question that asked, “What best describes the per kilogram price that your household paid for buying onion, potato and tomato in the latest purchase?”, 8,273 responses were received from citizens. Notably, 71% citizens said they are paying more than INR 50 per Kg for tomato, INR 40 per Kg for potato, and INR 50 per Kg for onion. In comparison to a similar survey by LocalCircles published on September 11, 2020, 61% households had said they were paying more thanINR 60 per Kg for tomato, INR 30 per Kg for potato, and INR 25 per kg for onion.

Essentials pinch during Pandemic: 71% households say they are paying more than INR 50/kg for Tomato, INR 40/kg for Potato and INR 50/kg for Onion

Essentials pinch during Pandemic: 71% households say they are paying more than INR 50/kg for Tomato, INR 40/kg for Potato and INR 50/kg for Onion

This means that while an average retail price majority of households paid per kilogram for potatoes rose by 30% and onions rose by 100%, while the price for tomatoes fell by 15% in just one month. The individual data on these three vegetables suggests that 42% citizens bought “tomato at INR 60 or higher, potato at INR 60 or higher, and onions at INR 70 or higher.” Whereas, 29% citizens said they bought per Kg of “tomato at INR 50-59, potato at INR 40-59, and onion at INR 50-69”, while 11% said to have bought “tomato at INR 30-49, potato at INR 20-39, and onion at INR 30-49”. Only 6% citizens said they bought “tomato at INR 20 or lower, potato at INR 19 or lower, and onion at INR 29 or lower” in some places.

Average prices majority of the households paid per kilogram for tomato fell by 15% in one month

Average prices majority of the households paid per kilogram for tomato fell by 15% in one month

Average prices majority of the households paid per kilogram for potato rose by 30% in one month

Average prices majority of the households paid per kilogram for potato rose by 30% in one month

Average prices majority of the households paid per kilogram for onion rose by 100% in one month

Average prices majority of the households paid per kilogram for onion rose by 100% in one month

While the price per kilogram for tomato paid by majority of the citizens marginally reduced in the last 30 days, the price per kilogram for potato rose by 30% and the price per kilogram for onion rose by 100% upsetting the household budget for essentials.

The second question asked citizens, “Overall, in 2020, how much higher price has your household paid on average for tomato, potato and onion in comparison to 2019?” 7,904 citizens responded. Notably, 70% households said they paid 25-100% higher prices this year for buying per kilogram of tomato, potato, and onion. Whereas, only 5% citizens said they “paid the same as last year”, while 1% citizens said they “paid less in comparison to last year,” and 11% voted for “can't say”.

This is indicative of a significant squeeze given the fact that many households have faced significant loss of earnings or loss of employment during the pandemic. Sectors like tourism, hospitality and restaurants have faced severe cutbacks as people continue to limit movement because of the fear of COVID-19. Those employed in many such sectors are dipping into savings, taking high interest loans just to make ends meet.

Essentials pinch during Pandemic: 70% households say they have paid 25-100% higher prices this year for Tomato, Potato and Onion as compared to 2019

Essentials pinch during Pandemic: 70% households say they have paid 25-100% higher prices this year for Tomato, Potato and Onion as compared to 2019

Experts, citing government data, say that the trade of these perishable vegetables in the retail market goes up at different rates across states due to several factors from disrupted supplies, mainly due to unchecked regulation on its trade. Meanwhile, few states have started taking actions against vegetable hoarders, per se, in an effort to ensure affordable prices in the market but with limited success.

An unregulated hike in the price of these vegetables or essentials and groceries is not new to the country. For instance, a similar survey published by LocalCircles on September 11, 2020, found that 73% households are spending more on monthly essentials and grocery items in comparison to pre COVID-19. In the months of March and April 2020, they reported being charged above the MRP cost as many were hoarding essentials fearing its shortages in the market facing COVID-19 lockdown at the time.

In the eight months of the pandemic, many are yet to fully recover from the giant-fall in their personal income facing job loss, salary cuts and delays. The rise in prices of household necessities have only added a burden to homemakers’ woes, especially for low-income earning households. The survey is part of a continuous effort by LocalCircles to bring authorities’ attention to the issue so actions can be taken to improve the on ground situation.

Survey Demographics

A total of over 16,000 responses were received across 242 districts of India. 58% respondents were from tier 1, 23% from tier 2 and 17% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.

About LocalCircles

LocalCircles, India’s leading Community Social Media platform enables citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions and enables Government to make policies that are citizen and small business centric. LocalCircles is also India’s # 1 pollster on issues of governance, public and consumer interest. More about LocalCircles can be found on https://www.localcircles.com

For More Queries - media@localcircles.com, +91-8585909866

All content in this report is a copyright of LocalCircles. Any reproduction or redistribution of the graphics or the data therein requires the LocalCircles logo to be carried along with it. In case any violation is observed LocalCircles reserves the right to take legal action.

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