Guwahati, Monday, May 06, 2013

Govt yet to initiate action to check price rise
STAFF Reporter
 GUWAHATI, May 5 – Despite the State government’s repeated assurances of action against middlemen, prices of essential commodities continue to pinch the common people, with huge differences in rates marking not just wholesale and retail prices but also in rates of wholesale prices in the State and other parts of the country.

 In Guwahati, wholesale price of onions stood at Rs 1,200-1,400 per quintal (or Rs 12-14 per kg) as on May 2, as per data from Kamrup Chamber of Commerce (KCC). However, by the time the product reaches consumers, the prices soar with onion being sold in retail shops at Rs 20 per kg.

There is also a big gap in wholesale prices in Guwahati and other cities.

As per figures from the Agricultural Marketing Information Network, wholesale onion prices in May this year in Nashik district of Maharashtra, one of the largest onion producing regions, has so far been an average of Rs 735.45 (or Rs 7.35 per kg) per quintal, while it was Rs 704.68 (Rs 7.04 per kg) in the last week of April.

In Delhi and the National Capital Territory (NCT), wholesale prices of onion stood at an average of Rs 897.76 per quintal in the current week of May in the Azadpur Mandi.

In case of another kitchen staple – potato – the KCC data stated that the wholesale rate was Rs 650-700 per quintal (Rs 6.50-7 per kg) on May 2. However, in the retail market potatoes cost as much as Rs 10-12 per kg.

“There is no problem with the wholesale rates as they are quite reasonable. However, the retailers are keeping a bigger margin and that is the reason why prices at the shop-level are expensive,” said a senior office bearer of the Guwahati Potato-Onion Merchants’ Association.

He further admitted, “The difference in too great. The reasons could range from presence of middlemen to commission to the police.”

A big chunk of potatoes sold in Guwahati market come from North Bengal. In Coochbehar, wholesale prices of potatoes stood at Rs 600 per quintal (or Rs 6 per kg) in the current week of May, while in Dhupguri the prices were as low as Rs 513.75 per quintal (Rs 5.13 per kg), as per AGMARK data.   

Public activist Prof Deven Dutta said the difference between wholesale and retail prices were “unrealistically high”, and blamed it on all parties – the government, the wholesalers and the retailers.

“No doubt, wholesalers are the main culprit. The government and its agencies are equally responsible and there is mismanagement from tip to bottom. The Food and Civil Supplies Department never monitors the prices and consumers are never provided information about prices,” Prof Dutta said.

He also blamed retailers who, he said, take advantage of manipulation by wholesalers and increase their own margins by passing on the cost to consumers.

“Unfortunately, there is no organised consumer resistance in the State except occasional murmurs,” Dutta said.