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Rs 30 diktat to fix pricey onion

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 2: The state government today asked all district collectors to intervene in the market and ensure that onions were not sold beyond Rs 30 a kg, apprehending a public outcry against its rising prices.

The prevailing market price of onion ranges between Rs 30 and Rs 34 a kg.

State food supply and consumer welfare secretary Madhusudan Padhi said: “We have instructed district collectors to ensure that the price of onion does not rise beyond Rs 30 per kg. We are keeping a close watch on the market and have asked all the officials concerned to take stringent action against hoarders. The district collectors can also book retailers and traders to ensure that they do not take advantage of the volatile market situation.”

Padhi attributed the sudden increase in onion prices to the unseasonal rainfall in the months of October and November last year, which has badly hit the cultivation of the essential kitchen commodities in Nashik, Maharashtra.

Odisha is mostly dependent on Nashik, Bangalore and Rajahmundry for its supply of onion, with local producers having only a miniscule share. The supplies from Nashik meet Odisha’s 70 per cent onion requirement. As the prices in Nashik have gone up, it has also had a domino effect and affected the state badly.

“This situation will continue till March, at least,” said Padhi. However, he said that time had not yet come for the department to take up direct sale of onions to provide relief to consumers.

“If the situation aggravates further, we will certainly consider selling onions on a no-profit, no-loss basis,” he said.

The rate of onions here has gone up by around Rs 12 per kilogram in the last few days. While it was being sold at Rs 20- 22 per kg last week, now it has touched Rs 34 in different parts of Bhubaneswar.

This has come as a bolt from the blue for the aam aadmi. “The government is supplying rice at Re 1 per kg to us. But can we live only by eating boiled rice?” asked Pabitra Majhi, a daily wage earner, adding that it was time for the government to intervene and supply onions to consumers at subsidised prices through the public distribution system.

In another development, the Congress today put pressure on the BJD government asking it to supply onions at subsidised rates.

“Just subsidy on rice will not solve the purpose. If they are so much concerned about the poor, why not give onions to the people at subsidised rates too?” said Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik.

On the other hand, onion wholesalers said the price rise was the result of short supply of onion. General secretary of Rajdhani Dainik Haat Byabasayi Mahasangha Gayadhar Swain said: “The onion market in Odisha is mostly dependent on supply from outside. The prices are soaring high since the supply is low.”

“We purchase onions at Rs 26 per kg from the wholesale market. Keeping a slight margin of profit, we are forced to sell it at Rs 30. If the price at the wholesale market comes down, we will sell it at a lower rate,” said Arjun Naik, a retailer.

Sumati Sahoo, a homemaker who lives at Baramunda, rued about how the spiralling price of onions has affected her kitchen budget.

“I have started avoiding using onions in most dishes,” she said.