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December 22, 2010

Onion prices bringing tears to public eyes

Guwahati/New Delhi Dec 21: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday expressed deep concern over the sharp rise in onion prices and said effective steps should be taken to bring down the prices to affordable levels.
In a letter to the secretaries of Departments of Consumer Affairs and Agriculture, the Prime Minister’s Office said that Dr Singh expressed deep concern over the “extraordinary price rise”. Onion prices have touched up to Rs 70 a kg across many cities from just half the level till recently, possibly due to supply disruption, but authorities have blamed it on hoarding. Dr Singh wanted that steps should be taken expeditiously and the impact should be monitored on a day-to-day basis, sources said, adding that the Prime Minister’s letter also made references to the wholesale and retail prices.
With rates jumping to Rs 70-80 per kg, the humble bulb called onion has become a luxury item, forcing people to cut down on its consumption despite it being the chief ingredient of any typical Indian food preparation.
While businessmen in Guwahati and other parts of the State are raising onion prices at will, the Assam Government has remained a passive observer of the situation.
Though businessmen have been attributing the sharp rice in onion prices to heavy rainfall in onion-growing States like Maharashtra and Rajasthan since early November 2010, onion prices hit a crisis point in Guwahati and other parts of the State and the country on Monday evening. Retail prices of onion in Guwahati today ranged between Rs 50 and Rs 70 a kilo.
“We have not been able to buy onion (from the wholesale market) since Monday. The wholesale rate of a quintal of onion jumped to Rs 4,400 today (Tuesday),” said a section of the businessmen in the city.
As per the daily price position of essential commodities announced by the State Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department, the maximum wholesale rate of a quintal of onion as on December 20 was Rs 3,500.
According to the list of wholesale market rates of essential commodities released by the Kamrup Chamber of Commerce (KCC) on October 28, 2010, the minimum and maximum wholesale rates of a quintal of onion were Rs 1,600 and Rs 2,200 which rose to Rs 2,500 and 2,700 respectively on November 11, 2010.
As onion prices sky rocketed to Rs 70-80 per kilo, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said the situation may continue for the next two to three weeks, while Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee termed it as “unfortunate”, blaming a demand-supply gap.
“Because of heavy rains, crops have been destroyed. In such a situation, it may take two to three weeks for the situation to get normal,” Pawar told reporters here.
“The ban on export may make the situation better in some days,” he said.
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had on Monday said that hoarding was responsible for the price rise. Commenting on hoarding, Pawar said that State governments had been asked to act on it.
The issue has been taken up by the Opposition, which blames the government’s faulty economic policies for the situation.
“It is because of the wrong economic policies and bad governance of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance),” BJP president Nitin Gadkari told television channels.
Some relief in the sky-high prices of onions in India is expected with truckloads of the commodity arriving from neighbouring Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah land border check-post, traders said on Tuesday. At least 30 truckloads of onions arrived through the Attari-Wagah border on Tuesday.
“It is the first time that we are importing vegetables from Pakistan through the land border route. So far, we had only been exporting onions, tomatoes and other things to Pakistan. In March-April this year, we had exported huge quantities of onions and tomatoes to Pakistan after that country was lashed by floods,” Uppal said. (Sentinelassam, PTI and IANS)

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