Tomatoes join high-priced onions, more supplies come from Pakistan (Intro Roundup)

December 24th, 2010 - 12:03 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) As onion prices continued to pinch, tomatoes too joined the league forcing the government to think of banning their exports. Meanwhile, more truckloads of onions came in from Pakistan to tide over the situation and the Delhi government opened 400 outlets in the city to sell onions at Rs.40 a kg.The high prices of onions, fruits, milk, eggs, meat and poultry pushed India’s annual food inflation to double-digits as the government took more steps to augment supplies and assured people their financial burden will ease soon.

Apart from asking the state-run trading agencies, MMTC, STC and PEC, to import onions, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar chaired a key meeting here Thursday and decided to move stocks of the bulb to deficit states like the national capital.

On Thursday, 34 more truckloads of onions arrived from Pakistan, adding to the 98 that had arrived since Tuesday. Another 40-50 trucks packed with onions are expected Friday. Traders have contracted for around 1,000 tonnes from Pakistan and more than half of that had already arrived in India.

“I understand that there is a shortfall in Maharashtra but Karnataka has reasonably good supplies. Gujarat is also producing quite a lot of onions. We will try to make some more movements,” Chandrasekhar told reporters after a meeting of a panel of secretaries.

“We will do whatever is required to bring down the prices of onions,” he said, amid nationwide furore over high onion prices, caused by crop damage in the main growing regions in Maharashtra due to heavy rains.

With the prices of tomatoes nearly doubling in the past 10 days, the government said it may decide to ban exports.

“The commerce secretary and DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade) are constantly monitoring the situation. Whatever appropriate decision is required will be taken,” Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said at a press conference here.

He said prices of onions and tomatoes have risen mainly because of hoarding by some traders.

The minister’s remarks came against the backdrop of tomato prices shooting up to about Rs.40 per kg in Delhi from around Rs.15-20 a kg 10 days back.

India’s food inflation based on wholesale prices zoomed to double-digit levels of 12.13 percent for the week ended Dec 11 from 9.46 percent the week before, marking the third successive week of rise and a four-month high.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma Thursday said some 1 million tonnes of the onions against the annual production of 18 million tonnes was lost due to unseasonal rains. He said that supplies will be augmented through duty-free imports and the ban on exports.

The Delhi government, in some relief to the people, has decided to sell onions at Rs.40 a kg through 400 outlets, including 288 Mother Dairy shops.

The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and attended by senior officials and members of the Azadpur wholesale market.

“Any buyer can purchase two kg onions. The city government will review the situation to provide more relief to the common man by further slashing onion rates,” Dikshit told reporters after the meeting.

According to the Delhi government, raids conducted by teams of Food & Supply Department and Office of the Development Commissioner have resulted in increased availability of onions in the wholesale market.

“Both the central and Delhi governments have taken a series of measures. The impact has been seen in the wholesale market. We hope the prices will come down further very soon,” Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told reporters.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have expressed major concern over the high price line and have assured that the annual inflation rate will fall to around 5 percent by the end of this fiscal.

The following are the yearly rise and fall in prices of some main commodities that form the sub-index for food articles in the official wholesale price index as on Dec 11:

Onions: 33.48 percent

Vegetables: 15.54 percent

Fruits: 20.15 percent

Potatoes: (-)27.99 percent

Milk: 17.83 percent

Eggs, meat, fish: 19.35 percent

Cereals: (-)0.35 percent

Rice: 1.4 percent

Wheat: (-)5.14 percent

Pulses: (-)10.77 percent

400 outlets to sell onions at Rs.40 a kg in Delhi

Tomato prices have shot up here because of a supply crunch due to unseasonal rains in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, from where the bulk of the crop comes to Delhi.

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