Bhubaneswar, July 1: The rising prices of potato and onion have set the kitchen on fire, and the state government has stepped in to do some fire-fighting. As a first step, the state government today warned traders of stern action if they fail to follow government guidelines on prices.
While onion prices have gone up for the second time in a fortnight, rising upto Rs 30 per kg now, potato, which was selling for Rs 18 a kilo till a couple of days ago, sold for Rs 20 today.
With a crisis looming, the civil supplies and consumer welfare department today asked traders to maintain a maximum gap of Rs 2.50 to Rs 3 between retail and wholesale price of potato and in case of onion it should be Rs 3 to Rs 4. It has warned hoarders of stern action.
“Hoarders will not be spared and we are making it clear that no one can sell onion and potato at a price higher than that stipulated by us,” civil supplies and consumer welfare secretary Madhusudan Padhee told reporters following a stocktaking meeting convened by his minister Sanjay Das Burma.
“This is the second time onion prices have gone up in the last two weeks. Last time, onion prices had risen from Rs 18 to Rs 24. Comparatively potato prices have not varied much, but this hike of Rs 2 pinches because you can’t avoid eating it,” said Rina Das, a homemaker.
Onion prices have shot up because the local crop is not reaching the market and the supply from Nasik, country's main onion growing, has shrunk following crop loss.
“According to our information, there was a crop loss of nearly 20 per cent in Nasik, which is our main supplier. We are also getting a lot of rotten onions in each consignment. Around three to five kilograms of the produce have to be discarded in each bag of 50 kg,” said general secretary of Unit I Daily Market Gayadhar Swain.
State horticulture director Sanjeev Chadha told The Telegraph that Odisha's requirement of onion is around 4.32 lakh metric tonnes (MT) per year. This can be taken care of from the local produce, but the lack of storage facility is a major problem.
“Since we do not have enough storing facility for this crop, the farmers sell bulk of their produce to traders from neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Bengal,” said Chadha.
Onion prices have been fluctuating every year. While it sold for 16 a kilo in 2011, the rate varied between Rs 18 and Rs 20 a year later.
However, the prices soared to an unprecedented Rs 60 a kg last year following floods in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Secretary of Odisha Byabasayee Mahasangha Sudhakar Panda said that the government had taken no steps to set up a regional mandi for onions in Bhubaneswar that caters to the needs of around 14 lakh people from city and its nearby areas.
With the supply from Maharashtra turning into a trickle this year, there is a growing apprehension that onion price might rise further creating a 2013-like situation.
The horticulture directorate has set up a 500MT capacity storage house for onion at Titlagarh in collaboration with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
“We are planning to set up similar facilities at Nuapara, Kalahandi and Balangir, respectively. In order to educate farmers on onion cultivation and its storage techniques, we have requested the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation to start a centre at Boudh soon,” Chadha said.
As far as potato is concerned, the Odisha Economic Survey 2013-14 says that the state produces nearly 1 lakh MT of potato against a demand of 9-10 lakh MT per year.
Consequently, the state has to depend on the supply of the produce from Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.