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.


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

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

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.