News / Economy

    Spiraling Onion Prices Worry Indian Government

    An Indian laborer carries a sack of onions at a warehouse in Jammu, India, August 22, 2013.
    An Indian laborer carries a sack of onions at a warehouse in Jammu, India, August 22, 2013.
    Anjana Pasricha
    In India, the government will import onions to ease spiraling prices of a crop that is an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. Seen as a symbol of high food inflation, the price of the "humble" onion has turned into a political headache for the government.

    Krishna Chopra has been coping with rising food prices for many months, but her anger has intensified since she began shelling out $1.25 for a kilogram of onions - about four times their usual price.

    “I am upset at the price of onions," she admitted."For a normal person it is almost impossible to buy. And personally, even if I can afford it, I have reduced my consumption of onions." 

    Used to make the famous Indian curry, onions are an indispensable item in virtually all Indian dishes. It is regarded as the most affordable item on the table - a vegetable within the reach of even the poorest person.

    Little wonder then that the runaway onion prices have made headlines and become the subject of animated television talk shows. The expensive onion even prompted a highway robbery last weekend, when a truck carrying 9,000 kilograms of onions was hijacked by two men. It was later intercepted by police. The loot: worth an estimated $10,000.

    Hoarders

    The government said there is no shortage. It blames rising prices on traders, accusing them of hoarding stocks to push up prices. It said it will import onions from Pakistan, China, Iran and Egypt to ease pressure.
     
    That is not placating the public, who see the expensive onion as a symbol of persistent high food inflation in recent years. An independent political commentator in New Delhi, B.G. Verghese, blames the problem on poor food management. 

    “Food prices have gone up, everyone feels that, basic sugar, rice, wheat, milk, vegetables, the whole works. It is a chain reaction, part of general inflation, partly because of shortages, partly because of artificial shortages created by hoarding as in the case of some vegetables and so on,” Verghese said. 

    Cashing in

    India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to cash in on voter disgruntlement over high onion prices as it gears up for state elections due in Delhi later this year. Onions have become the centerpiece of their campaign to slam the government for mismanaging the economy and failing to protect the interests of poor people. To woo voters, it has set up stalls to sell onions at rates significantly lesser than the market price in New Delhi.

    Political commentator Verghese admits onions are a “political heavyweight." But he said as prices reduce following imports, they may fade from public memory during local elections this year and national elections next year.  

    “There are so many issues that I don’t know whether onions will be leading the charge. People will be talking about more enduring issues, corruption, misgovernance, lack of governance, so many other things that are worrying,” said
    Verghese.

    But the government has reason to worry about the humble commodity.  High onion prices helped former prime minister Indira Gandhi wrest back power in 1980, and they were largely responsible for the defeat of the Delhi state government 15 years ago.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8769
    JPY
    USD
    107.28
    GBP
    USD
    0.6842
    CAD
    USD
    1.2528
    INR
    USD
    66.384

    Rates may not be current.