Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How India Eats: Thali cost cools off in August, but still steep over last year

Prices of onion jumped 8 percent, chilli 20 percent and cumin prices surged 158 percent year-on-year which contributed an overall increase of 1 percent in the cost of vegetarian thali in August

Infographics By Kapil Kashyap
Published: Sep 7, 2023 01:44:10 PM IST
Updated: Oct 5, 2023 12:43:28 PM IST

Infographics by Kapil KashyapInfographics by Kapil Kashyap

Even as food inflation has been worrying due to erratic and scanty monsoon, overall cost of a household thali marginally declined in August as the raging tomato prices fell. However, elevated prices of other key food items like onion, chilli and cumin kept prices of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis high compared to August last year.

The average cost of a vegetarian thali was Rs33.8, a slight decline of 0.6 percent from July. In July, this thali came for Rs34. However, compared to the same month last year, the average cost of a vegetarian thali jumped 24 percent, based on an analysis by Crisil. Of the 24 percent rise in the vegetarian thali cost, 21 percent can be attributed solely to the price of tomato. Prices of tomato surged 176 percent on-year to Rs102 per kg in the month compared to Rs37 per kg in the year-ago period.

Similarly, prices of onion jumped 8 percent, cost of chilli got expensive by 20 percent and cumin prices surged 158 percent year-on-year. These three items contributed an overall increase of 1 percent to the cost of vegetarian thali in August.

Comparatively, rise in the average cost of a non-vegetarian thali in August was slower on a yearly basis. Average cost of a non-vegetarian thali was Rs67.3 in August, decreasing 0.4 percent from the previous month. In July, the same thali cost Rs67.6. What saved the increase in non-vegetarian thali was the price of broilers (or chicken). Broilers, which form more than 50 percent of a non-vegetarian cost, are estimated to have risen a moderate 1-3 percent year-on-year.

Overall, a 17 percent on-year decline in the price of vegetable oil and 14 percent in potato cushioned cost of both the thalis to some extent.

Going forward, the cost of thalis could see some pull back in September as tomato retail prices have halved to Rs51 per kg, says Crisil. Also, the cost of a 14.2 kg LPG cylinder, which was Rs1,103 in August has been brought down to Rs903 per cylinder from September.

The key concern is weak rains could hurt agriculture output at a time when recovery in the rural economy is weak. Any impact on crop output could increase upside pressure on the Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based food inflation, which is already hovering in double digits.

So far, rain deficiency has been high in states like Jharkhand, Karnataka and Bihar. In Maharashtra and West Bengal, rains were deficient for most of the season. Among these, Jharkhand is a major producer of pulses. Maharashtra and Karnataka are diverse producers of pulses, coarse cereals, sugarcane and cotton. West Bengal and Bihar are major rice producers.

July data indicated 13 percent CPI inflation in the prices of rice and pulses. Within pulses, inflation was the highest at 34.1 percent for tur, followed by 9.1 percent for moong and 7.9 percent for urad.

Forbes India's monthly series 'How India Eats' takes a look at how the average price of a food plate in India changes every month, indicating the impact on the common man's expenditure, by analysing the Indian thali.