Like in many other states across the country, Bengaluru has also seen the price of onions soaring since mid-November. And it appears there is no respite for households or businesses which use the staple ingredient despite the governmentâ€™s assurance.
The current going rate for 1 kg of onions is Rs 110 in retail stores across the city which is four times the regular price. And if traders are to be believed then the situation is likely to worsen before it gets better.
Naushad Ahmed, an onion and garlic merchant based in Bengaluru said that while the government has promised relief, there is none on the ground or the vegetable mandis.
â€śThe price has increased this week further. The wholesale price for grade A onion has touched Rs 120/ kg. Regular onions and smaller onions are costing Rs 80 and above per kg. Whatever the government says, there is no change on the ground,â€ť Naushad said.
He added, â€śOnions are a staple in most households and also used for many traditional dishes like sambar. So people are making a compromise. We are forced to sell at minimal margins as we know people wonâ€™t be able to afford. In Shivajinagar, some shops have started adding or replacing onions with cabbage in their samosas.â€ť
There have been reports of restaurants removing onion dosas from their menu as well.
While there was a similar crisis in 2017 as well, the situation was contained within a short period of time.
Idrees Chaudhury, general secretary Russell Market Trader's Association, said, â€śThe crisis this time around compared to that of 2017 has affected Bengaluru much more. Last time around, we had seen the problem last not more than two weeks.â€ť
He added, â€śSadly while prices are very high, neither the farmers or traders are profiting from it. It is only the hoarders who are making things worse even though there is a genuine dearth of supply. The government should ensure that every gram of produce is accounted for from the farm to the mandi with the help of government societies. Unfortunately, not all of the products are reaching the mandis which is resulting in this artificial rise of prices.â€ť
Primarily the price hike has been due to the low production of the crop this year due to both drought and excess rainfall. The phenomenon was also witnessed in north and central Karnataka itself.
Karnataka grows 13% of the countryâ€™s onion and is third-largest producer. Maharashtra which produces 38% of the countryâ€™s onion and also the largest onion producing state also suffered similar extreme climatic conditions.
The prevailing crisis saw the Centre asking the states to impose stock limits on traders and to ensure strict action against hoarding on Monday.
In Mondayâ€™s review meeting with Committee of Secretaries on onion prices, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba directed the states to maintain considerable buffer stocks, impose stock limits on traders and to ensure strict action against hoarding. Earlier the export of onions was also restricted for the entire season.
Chief Secretaries from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana participated in the video conference.
Gauba said that the Union Government has approved the import of 11,000 metric tonnes of onions from Turkey to tide over the situation. The deliveries are expected from the last week of December. This is in addition to the decision of the government to import 6,900 metric tonnes of onions from Egypt. The deliveries are expected from second week of December.
The Cabinet Secretary also directed the states to utilise their Food and Civil Supply Departments to procure and distribute onions at reasonable prices.
Speaking to TNM, Sujatha H, Additional Director of Karnataka Food and Civil Supplies Department said, â€śWe have been carrying out raids based on inputs from other departments and our intelligence inputs. But so far we have not come across such cases.â€ť
â€śWe canâ€™t do anything about prices. That has to be decided by the Horticultural and Agriculture departments,â€ť she added.
GR Sreenivasan, Chairman of Horticultural Producersâ€™ Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society (HOPCOMS) was unavailable for comment.
Deputy CM Laxman Savadiâ€™s office who holds the Agriculture Ministry refused to comment citing model code of conduct for the byepolls.
(With IANS inputs)