Chicken is on the chief minister’s agenda, if not her menu.
Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday displayed her trademark common touch to give voice to a question echoing in Calcutta homes for weeks: why is chicken becoming costlier every few days?
“Keu keu hathat bariye diyechhe (some traders have suddenly hiked prices). Chicken is being sold at Rs 150-170 per kg,” Mamata told reporters after a meeting on food prices at Writers’.
The chief minister said she had asked the enforcement branch to find out the reason for the price rise and report to her so that she could take corrective steps. “This is happening in Calcutta as well as Durgapur and Siliguri. Why should this happen?” Mamata said.
Metro had earlier trawled the markets and found the price of chicken varying from one area to another, but higher than normal across the city. In south Calcutta’s Lake Market, a kilo of dressed chicken was priced Rs 185. Boneless and minced chicken were selling at Rs 250 a kilo.
Sources said Mamata wanted to fix Rs 140 a kilo as the maximum price for dressed chicken. Market insiders said it would be unrealistic for the administration to attempt enforcing any such ceiling.
Some retailers said the spike in chicken price wasn’t unusual. “Extreme heat triggers poultry death, resulting in reduced supply and a price hike. This is also the marriage season and demand is higher,” a trader at Lake Market said.
In the first week of May, a kilo of dressed chicken was priced around Rs 170. “In the last two weeks, the price has gone up by Rs 15-20 for no fault of ours,” the trader said.
Retailers expect the price to fall to around Rs 150 a kilo after monsoon sets in.
Mamata is, of course, determined to immediately put chicken on every meat-eating Calcuttan’s plate. She has asked the animal resources development department to open outlets to sell chicken at a regulated price. “The department will start running these outlets on Thursday,” the chief minister promised.
She said that except for chicken and ginger, food prices were stable in the wholesale and retail markets.
Adrita Dey, a homemaker from Haridevpur, is happy the chief minister has taken note of how those like her have had to cut down on chicken. “Earlier, we used to consume a kilo of chicken every alternate day. Now we make do with 750gm,” she said.
Mamata had broached the topic at the meeting on food prices without a prod from anyone, said a minister who was part of the discussion.