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'Lower middle class losing taste of vegetables & fruits'

Fresh fruits and vegetables are fast disappearing from the plate of the lower middle class due to skyrocketing prices, an ASSOCHAM survey has said.

According to the ASSOCHAM Social Development Foundation (ASDF), more than half of the lower middle class population has been forced to skip or squeeze their budgets for fresh fruits and vegetables because of the rising prices.

"The maximum impact has been felt in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune," the survey said.

The field study brought out the fact that the increase in salaries in the last three years is disproportionate to the rising prices of fruits and vegetables.

"During the last three years, the salary of the average common man has gone up by 10-15 per cent, but the prices of fruits and vegetables has gone up by 100-115 per cent," it added.

While 86 per cent of the respondents said that rising food prices have made their life even tougher, 56 per cent of the respondents felt that vegetables at current prices are not even an option for a family of six, where the monthly salary is Rs 8,000-10,000.

Around 87 per cent of the respondents said they have forgotten the taste of the season's exotic fruits and vegetables due to the price spike.

"Almost all vegetables in the city's markets have become costlier, with many becoming out of the reach of the middle class family. Prices of brinjal, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes, besides fruits, have also gone up," ASSOCHAM Secretary General D S Rawat said.

The survey also found that low-income groups and people under-35 are increasingly cutting back on nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits because they can no longer afford them.

About 78 per cent of the female respondents covered in the survey said that efforts to keep the kitchen budget intact have failed and most of them have switched over to pre-cooked and ready-to-eat food items to cut down on expenses.

According to the industry body's survey, 67 per cent of the vegetarians covered said they face even more problems due to the steep increase in prices of vegetables and fruits.

The ASSOCHAM survey was conducted over a period of three months from April to June, 2011, and over 1,000 housewives and 1,000 employees took part.

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