Prices of onion and potato, two basic grocery items, continue to be stubbornly high due to lower output last year, squeezing households.

Tomato rates showed a moderation in June from a year ago, but the vegetable was way costlier compared to the previous month, according to official data.

Officials are counting on robust kharif or summer planting to calm food inflation. Expanding summer sowing should have a “salutary effect” on market sentiment, which will bring down prices, one official said.

A hot, dry summer since April had strained supplies of many commonly consumed vegetables, shifting demand towards potato, onion and tomato and pushing up prices, a second official said.

Compared to a year ago, as on June 30, average wholesale onion rates rose 106%, from ₹1,260.66 a quintal (100kg) to ₹2,603.55 a quintal. Wholesale potato prices leaped to ₹2,116 a quintal to ₹1,076.14 a quintal, an increase of 96%.

On an annual basis, wholesale tomato prices in June declined 40%, from ₹5,680.75 a quintal to ₹3,368.28 a quintal. However, compared to the previous month, wholesale rates climbed 112.39%, from ₹1,585.84 per 100 kg to ₹3,368.28, indicating volatility.

Vegetables have a weight of 6% in the consumer inflation basket. According to an HT analysis, the three items make up 44% of a household’s monthly spending on vegetables.

Retail prices have also edged up. The countrywide modal rate (a type of average) of onion on July 2 stood at ₹42.21 a kg, up 81% from a year ago, when the price was ₹23.29 a kg.

The retail rate of potatoes has risen 57% from a year ago, from ₹21.91 a kg to ₹34.4 a kg. Consumer prices for tomato on June 2 declined 15%, from ₹64.5 a kg a year ago to ₹54.42. However, compared to a month ago, the vegetable rose a sharp 71%, from ₹31.74 a kg to ₹54.42 a kg.

Last year in August, retail onion prices quadrupled, prompting the government to start selling subsidized onions to the public. Onion output dropped 20% in 2023 due to irregular rainfall. The lingering impacts of a poor monsoon last year then crimped production of rabi or winter-sown onions by another 20% to 19 million tonnes, compared to 23.7 million tonnes in the previous year. Rabi onion is critical because it supplies up to 75% of the country’s annual supply.

The world’s largest onion producer banned export of the item in December last year, which was lifted on May 4. Exports were allowed with a 40% duty.

Blistering temperatures and falling reservoir levels since April have impacted output of seasonal vegetables whose stocks are not federally monitored, such as okra, gourds, beans, cabbage and turnips. Heat waves have also led to significant spoilage of fresh vegetables, according to traders, impacting prices.