The cost of a thali or plate of food in India increased steadily during the pandemic from April 2020 to November 2020, says the Economic Survey 2021. The cost of a vegetarian thali increased from approx Rs 26 to Rs 29.5 in urban areas and followed a similar trend in rural areas. The cost has dipped in December reflecting the fall in prices of many essential food commodities. ( See graph).
The concept of Thalinomics or the economics of a plate of food in India was first introduced in the last Economic Survey for 2019-20. The survey says: Thali cost represents the cost of a meal cooked within household but as it excludes PDS consumption is wholly based on the transactional prices of the said components of thali, it may be true that the actual cost for a real household may differ from that computed here and may be dependent on the efficacy of the PDS system in a State.
As per the survey, Thali prices for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Thalis declined significantly in January-March 2020 before rising sharply during April to November in both rural and urban areas before easing in December 2020.
The following figures show the trends in thali cost at All-India level for Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian thalis since April 2019. While Thali cost have increased between June 2020 and November 2020, they witnessed a sharp fall in the month of December reflecting the fall in the prices of many essential food commodities.
Thali costs displayed much variation among the states. In 2020-21(Jun-Dec, 2020), the most expensive Veg thali in the rural areas was in Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Rs 38.7) while the cheapest in rural areas was in Uttar Pradesh (Rs 23.1). In terms of Non-Veg thali, during the same period, the most expensive was in Arunachal Pradesh (Rs 48.5) while cheapest was in Chandigarh (Rs 29.9) in rural areas.
In 2020-21(Jun-Dec, 2020), the most expensive Veg thali in the urban areas was in Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Rs 40.0) while the cheapest was in Madhya Pradesh (Rs 24.0). In terms of Non-Veg thali during the same period, the most expensive was in Mizoram (Rs 52.4) while cheapest was in Haryana (Rs 28.0) in urban areas.
As per the survey, Thali cost for the months of April, 2020 & May, 2020 are not compiled as sufficient price data was not available due to lockdown situation of COVID-19 pandemic. The price of Thali in India was first mentioned in last year’s Economic Survey.