The ongoing nationwide lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic has affected the supply of vegetables and fruits in Maharashtra, leading to major losses for farmers and retailers.
The Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), or wholesale mandi, in Maharashtra's Vashi which is responsible for feeding vegetables and fruits to Mumbai has seen a fall of 30-40 per cent in its supplies in the last one week.
Even though essential services including vegetables and fruits have been exempted from the lockdown, the APMC is facing difficulties in getting the supplies.
Earlier, around 500-600 trucks used to supply the essentials to the market every day bringing stocks from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. Following the 21-day nationwide lockdown announced on March 24 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, only 100-150 trucks can be seen per day.
However, the problem is not with production but with distribution.
"The trucks are getting stopped at every interval. Even farmers are getting scared. Distributors and sellers are also scared as there is no social distancing here and hence are not asking for more supplies," Kailash Tajane, chairman of Vashi APMC (vegetable), said.
The APMC produce is distributed to semi-wholesellers who then distribute it locally to retail sellers. This process is labour intensive and requires smooth transportation. However, now retailers have to depend on whoever gives them a hand.
Shanti, a retailer who sells vegetables in Mumbai's Sion area, said: "Now the supply is reduced. I have to depend on others to get me a truck full of supplies. It is difficult."
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown has also restricted exports, greatly impacting fruit farmers in the state.
Atul Gaikar, who has a 5-acre grape farm in Nashik, about 200 km from Mumbai, is suffering losses this year despite a good produce.
About 900-1,000 quintals of grapes are still on his farm, he said.
Before the lockdown, he used to sell grapes for at least Rs 60 per kg but now is forced to sell for Rs 10 per kg, sometimes even for Rs 5 per kg. He said he is suffering losses of nearly Rs 30 lakh this season.
"I have suffered losses because of coronavirus. Since the last 15 days, nobody is coming to my farm. These grapes are just on creepers since then," he added.
Meanwhile, as demand has increased for agricultural produce, the retailers are charging more for vegetables.
Motilal, a fruit seller, said: "At the beginning, there was produce but now we are not getting the produce and the price has also gone up by Rs 20-30."
Another seller, Kamlesh Patel, said that because of the lockdown, not everyone can go to the APMC to buy the produce, and so the supply has been affected.
"We are not able to go to the market. And even if we go, we are being sent back from the toll plaza because they say don't overcrowd and are allowing only one person, not a group," he said.
The government has assured of enough supplies but if the supply chain continues like this, many cities could experience shortages of fruits and vegetables.