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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7866
JPY
USD
109.25
GBP
USD
0.6139
CAD
USD
1.1120
INR
USD
61.428

Rates may not be current.