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Food price rise pushes up demand for precooked, ready-to-eat food items
Due to steep rise in prices of fruits and vegetables, over 58% of middle and low income group have switched over to precooked and ready-to-eat food items to keep the kitchen budget intact, according to latest ASSOCHAM data. The fear of a bad monsoon has suddenly hiked the vegetables and fruits prices by 300% from the farm to your dining table,' reveals the ASSOCHAM survey on 'Rising prices of fruits and vegetables' in which over 5,000 people took part.

Over 88% of middle income group (MIG) and lower income group (LIG) find it difficult to manage the household budget and squeezing families' finances to the lowest level due to uncertainty of rains, according to a country-wide survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) under the aegis of ASSOCHAM Social Development Foundation (ASDF).

During the last three years, the salary of average common man has gone up by 10-15% but on the other side the prices of vegetables have also gone up by 250-300%, adds the Assocham paper.

The survey was conducted in major places such as Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Bengaluru and so on. The maximum impact was felt in major cities like Delhi (1st), Mumbai (2nd), Ahmedabad (3rd), Kolkata (4th), Chennai (5th), Hyderabad (6th) and Pune (7th). Around 82% of lower middle class families have been forced to skip or squeezed their budgets for vegetables because of skyrocketing prices.

The prices of most of the widely consumed vegetables have shot up during the last two weeks in most parts of the country with the early onset of monsoon rains. The sudden increases of vegetables prices have seriously hit the common men mainly in the metro cities, adds the D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM while releasing ASSOCHAM Survey.

The demand for tomato puree and ketchup are commonly-used commodities due to high fluctuations of market prices of fresh tomatoes. The main categories of packaged food are canned/dried processed food, frozen processed food, meal replacement products and condiments.

The relatively affordable tomatoes, cabbage cauliflower, lady finger and potatoes basic ingredients in most Indian meals are moving away from the middle class family reach as prices continue to soar, adds the paper.

Mr. Rawat further added that almost all vegetables in the city’s markets have become costlier, with many becoming out of reach of the middleclass family. Prices of brinjals, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes besides fruits have also gone up.  Fruits have also become a luxury for the lower middle class; one spends less on buying a litre of fruit juice than a kilo of fresh fruits. Packed fruit juices appeared to be a better option for them.

86% of the respondents said that rising food prices have made their life even tougher. A middle class family cannot predict their monthly household expenses for next month cause prices are unpredictable it is not only the prices of commodities but prices of vegetables, milk, pulses and other household items also make presence and importance felt from time to time.

More than 52% of employees said that they shell out between Rs. 4,000 to 5,000 on vegetables and fruits itself. About five years ago this expenditure was one fourth of it, they added.

75% of household’s women said that the soaring prices of fruits and vegetables have put their household budget in a state of disarray. They are now forced to rethink their daily menus, or patronise the local Mother Dairy outlets where prices are lower. Majority of respondents said that they prefer to buy veggies in bulk instead of every day. However, the prices of fruits and vegetables at Safal shops of Mother Dairy are comparatively lower than market prices.

Rising prices of fruits and vegetables have upset budgets of middle and lower class families, particularly affecting those below the poverty line. The fact that prices of some of the essential commodities have increased further has created great dissatisfaction, added Mr. Rawat.

87% of respondents said that they forget the season’s exotic fruits and vegetables, even the common potato, tomato and onion are now beyond the middle class family reach. For many, it’s becoming a nightmare stretching the household budget and has been forced to make do with consuming lesser quantities.

The rise in vegetable price has come as a double-shocker for the denizens. Tomatoes are selling at Rs 60 per kilo, with ladyfinger at Rs 50/kg and brinjal at Rs 40/kg. Apart from these vegetables, capsicum is being sold at Rs 80 per kg, bitter gourd at Rs 80 and gourd bottle at Rs 20 per piece. Though cauliflower and cabbage too are available in the market, vendors are extracting anything between Rs 55 and Rs 60 for a small piece.

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