CHANDI RAJ DAHAL
KATHMANDU: Sales of green vegetables and fruits have gone down by up to 50 per cent lately, as media reports about high percentage of harmful chemicals in fresh consumables seem to have stirred consumers.
Ironically, the drop in sales has been reported in the Nepali month of Shrawan — which began on July 17 — when many people stop consuming meat and turn vegetarian.
A snap survey conducted today by The Himalayan Times showed that vegetable trading in markets of Kalimati, Balkhu, Bagbazar and other places of the Kathmandu Valley remained less active, with retailers reporting up to 50 per cent drop in sales.
“I threw 40 kg of cauliflowers yesterday,” said Bimala Karki, a vegetable retailer at Pepsi Cola, Koteshwor. “I am stunned that sales have gone down.”
A vegetable trader at Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market, Suresh Dhungana, lamented that he had to incur losses due to the sudden fall in prices of vegetables due to slump in demand.
“I bought these cucumbers for Rs 30 per kg, but I haven’t been able to sell them for even Rs 20 per kg,” he said.
Sales of green vegetables, such as cow peas, bottle-gourd, cauliflower, tomato, radish, brinjal and fruits, such as bananas and mangoes have tumbled, as they were found to have been laced with harmful chemicals.
The Rapid Pesticides Residue Analysis Laboratory, a government-owned pesticide inspecting body that examines five to six items of vegetables and fruits from every stall at Kalimati vegetable market every day, last week found that 26 of 187 examined vegetables, mainly tomatoes, chillies, cauliflowers, brinjals, potatoes, cow peas and bottle-gourds, contained residues of harmful chemicals beyond consumable limits.
These chemicals, experts say, are hazardous to health, as they contain carcinogens and affect organs like liver, kidney and endocrine system.
This food safety issue has caused panic among consumers, affecting not only farmers but retailers, as well as wholesalers, of vegetables.
“A few days ago, I was selling five kg of radishes at Rs 120. Now I have lowered the price to Rs 50 but I’m yet to find buyers,” said Santosh Sah, a wholesaler at Kalimati market, who hardly manages to sell 100 kg of cabbages, radishes and cauliflowers daily, as against 150 kg several days ago.
With the fall in demand, supply of many vegetables has also dwindled at the Kalimati market, the country’s largest vegetable wholesale market. According to the statistics from the Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market Development Board, only 566 tonnes of vegetables and fruits arrived at the market on Tuesday, as against 683 tonnes on Sunday.
Bharat Khatiwada, former president of the Kalimati Vegetable Market Traders Association, said, “The test results of pesticide laboratory have been generalised and this has affected farmers who don’t use excessive amount of pesticides.”