Is lemonade an ‘elite drink’? In India, the price of lemons has soared, and it is also given as a wedding gift | Business Insider Japan


Lemons for sale at the market.

Abhishek Anupam for Insider

  • India’s record heat has pushed lemon prices soaring this summer.
  • As a result, lemons are stolen in large numbers and sometimes given as wedding gifts.
  • Although prices have stabilized for a while, the soaring prices have changed people’s eating habits and businesses.

“I’ve never seen a lemon so expensive,” said Chandrashekar Balabrai Devender, a lemonade stand owner in Mumbai, India, who has been selling lemonade for 12 years.

Unusually heavy rains in winter and hot summers resulted in lower harvests, and rising global gasoline prices led to higher transportation costs. Prices soared.

Lemons are an integral part of Indian cuisine. However, lemons have become a “luxury ingredient” this summer, and as a result, a large amount of lemons have been stolen or given as wedding gifts. Ordinary lemonade has become an elite drink.

Vendors selling lemons and lemonades in Mumbai said they could buy five to seven lemons for 10 rupees ($17) in 2021. In recent months, however, he has barely managed to get one for 10 rupees.

Devender said he was earning around 1,500 rupees a day in 2021, but now his income has been cut in half.

To make up for lost income, Devender also started a stall selling buttermilk and tea. As a result, “you can’t make money and save money this year,” he said.

Sanjay Sonawane, a lemon seller in Mumbai, said he used to sell between 7 and 10 kilograms of lemons a day in a typical summer.

“This summer we are struggling to sell 5 kilograms a day.

To survive, Sonawane said she had to take out a loan and “has not been able to pay it off yet.” For Sonawane, debt is always a “last resort.”

unusual season

Agricultural economist Alankurita Goswami said several factors contributed to the soaring price of lemons. Wet winter rains delayed lemon production by several months in some areas, and “abnormally high temperatures in early 2022” reduced lemon production and quality.


Abhishek Anupam for Insider

According to India’s Agricultural Market Board, this summer’s lemon arrivals are only 5% of the average.

“On the other hand, fuel and gasoline prices have also skyrocketed, which has affected transportation costs,” Goswami said.

Indian lemon love

“Lemons and Indian cuisine have a long history,” says Delhi-based food blogger Chaitari Agarwal.

“Our grandparents traditionally bottled lemons and pickled lemons and ended the meal with this citrus goddess,” Aggarwal said. Lemons are rich in vitamin C.

“I like to have a salad with every meal, and a freshly squeezed lemon dressing is a must.”

The summer heat has soared demand for homemade lemonade, lemon-infused iced tea and lemon-scented water, all of which require “a lot of lemon juice,” Aggarwal said.

Others believe that lemons ward off evil. People are often seen leaving lemons with chili peppers outside their homes and cars.


Abhishek Anupam for Insider

Agarwal’s friends and family, who used to buy lemons in large quantities, are buying less and using less lemons as the price of lemons soars.

“It’s become a very high-end commodity that has become a commodity that is so mundane that it’s so ingrained in our lives,” Aggarwal said.

Ripple effect

Rising prices are changing the way lemons are used in India, affecting nutritional levels and business.

Restaurants and bars in parts of Mumbai have stopped serving lemons, which used to accompany onion slices and salads this summer.

“Until last year, we used to have paopaji or mashed potato curries with a lemon cut in half,” said Mumbai-based stall owner Savita Balerao.

“Now I buy five lemons a day and cut each one into four pieces.”

In April, when lemon prices peaked, Valerao stopped offering lemons altogether.

“I would tell the customer that the lemon was already sprinkled, and I would use a little bit of vinegar to add some tangy flavor,” Valerao said.

Agarwal said the trend to use vinegar instead of lemon was also seen among home cooks.

“Of course, it’s nothing like freshly squeezed lemon juice, and it doesn’t have the health benefits that fresh lemons have.”

threatened lifestyle

Lemons are only a small part of India’s and the world’s food crisis. Rising fuel prices and supply chain problems have pushed up the prices of various foods in India.

India’s Ministry of Statistics and Business Implementation reported that food prices rose by an average of 7.3% from February to April. The consumer price index also reached 7.8% in April and fell slightly to around 7% in May.


Inflation rate in India.

“The imminent food crisis is still there. Food is now a source of joy and part of life. The food crisis threatens all of that,” Aggarwal said.

With the rainy season from June to September, lemon prices are starting to settle. India has three lemon seasons a year, and the beginning of a new harvest cycle has also played a part.

However, Goswami does not expect lemon prices to return to normal until October-December.

Consumers may take a breather once prices settle, but lemon-related business may never recover.

Devender now doesn’t want his children to continue the family’s lemonade business.

“I want my kids to break with tradition and get out of school and have a steady income,” Debender said.

“I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through.”

[Original: Lemon prices soared so much in India this summer they were given as wedding gifts and lemonade was seen as an ‘elite’ drink]

(Translated and edited by Yoshimi Yamaguchi)

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