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Vegetable prices in Nepal tumble on pesticide scare

Publication Date : 29-07-2014


Vegetable prices have tumbled over the last one week in the Kathmandu valley as reports of produce being contaminated with pesticide residues kept customers away.

Wholesale and retail prices are down 50 per cent with traders reporting plunging sales due to the pesticide scare.

Last week, the Rapid Pesticide Residue Analysis Lab found 97.17 per cent residues of pesticides in the cowpea being sold at the Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market, the largest vegetable bazaar in the country.

Lab tests showed that 26 of the 187 samples examined contained a high degree of residues of pesticides making them inedible. Vegetables including tomato, chilli, cauliflower, egg plant, potato, cowpea and bottle gourd were found to contain 45 per cent pesticide residues. Experts said such vegetables were not fit for consumption.

The findings set off a public scare, and seasonal vegetables like cowpea, egg plant, capsicum, cabbage, carrot, ladies finger, bottle gourd and smooth gourd have become cheaper over a week.

Cowpea now costs 45-50 Nepalese rupees (US$0.47-US$0.52) per kg, down from 70 Nepalese rupees ($0.72) per kg a week ago. Capsicum has dropped to 40 Nepalese rupees ($0.41) per kg from 60-65 Nepalese rupees ($0.62-$0.67) while smooth gourd costs 15-20 Nepalese rupees ($0.160-$0.21) per kg compared to 40 Nepalese rupees ($0.41) per kg before.

Retail prices of carrot have plunged to 60 Nepalese rupees ($0.41) to 70 Nepalese rupees ($0.73) against 80 Nepalese rupees ($0.83) to 90 Nepalese rupees ($0.93) a week ago.

Bottle gourd, which cost 30 Nepalese rupees ($0.31) per kg a month ago, now costs 20 Nepalese rupees ($0.21).

Similarly, cabbage has decreased to 31 Nepalese rupees ($0.32) per kg from 38 Nepalese rupees ($0.39) last week. However, tomato prices have surged over a week. Big and small tomatoes now cost 48 Nepalese rupees ($0.50) and 45 Nepalese rupees ($0.47) per kg respectively against 32 Nepalese rupees ($0.33) and 33 Nepalese rupees ($0.34) a week ago.

Sarita Magar, a retailer at Gyaneshwor, said demand had slowed as customers have been buying less vegetables due to fear of pesticides. She complained that she had been forced to sell some vegetables at a loss as they were highly perishable.

“Sales of cowpea, capsicum and bottle gourd have dropped by almost half in the last two days, so it’s better to clear my stocks by slashing prices,” she said.

Wholesalers also have similar complaints. Raju Ghimire, a wholesaler at the Ichhumati Vegetables Market, Bag Bazaar, said retailers were buying less stock.

Meanwhile, traders have been complaining they have been unnecessarily targeted as they are not users of pesticides. Some sellers reported tainted vegetables had been moved to other markets to escape government scrutiny which has been concentrated at Kalimati.


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