The COVID-19 lockdown caused a 53% drop in the volume of major fruits and vegetables arriving at the Azadpur Mandi, according to analysis of the market’s arrivals data. Even for kitchen staples such as onions, potatoes and tomatoes, volumes are down over 40%, while other vegetables and fruits have been further affected.
The Azadpur Mandi is Asia’s biggest fruit and vegetable market, spread over almost 44 acres in north-west Delhi. It is home to almost 1,400 shops and handles almost 50 lakh tonnes of produce every year.
An analysis of data from the mandi’s Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee shows that arrivals plunged immediately after the lockdown. Considering six major commodities — onion, potato, tomato, carrots, apples and oranges — only 2,343 tonnes arrived at the mandi on March 25, the first day of the lockdown. The previous day had seen arrival of more than 4,411 tonnes.
Despite the government’s decision to keep the mandi and to exempt agricultural activity and transport from lockdown restrictions, arrivals remained low for the next two weeks, hovering around the 2,000-tonne mark on most days and dropping to 1,083 tonnes on March 30.
For the first week of the lockdown, from March 25 to 30, arrivals of these six commodities dropped 53.27% in comparison to the same period in the previous year. Fruit trade was the most badly hit, with the volume of arriving apples from the northern States crashing more than 83% in comparison to the previous year. Onion and potato arrivals were over 40% lower than the previous year. Tomatoes were about a third of the volume which arrived in the previous year.
On Wednesday, responding to concerns about crowding and a failure to practice social distancing at the mandi, the APMC reportedly told traders that they would only be allowed to bring in one truck each per day. The APMC also decided to allow trade in alternate auction sheds only. These moves are meant to prevent the mandi from becoming another hotspot of COVID-19 infections, but are also likely to further reduce the volumes of fruits and vegetables arriving at the mandi.