CM Mamata Banerjee concerned as Bengal govt’s potato, onion stocks deplete
With onions and potatoes still selling at double their normal price, their dwindling stock in the government-freezers has come as a cause of concern for the Mamata Banerjee administration, which is gearing up for the crucial 2021 assembly elections.
When the prices had hit the roof, the state government was providing onions and potatoes at half the market price to consumers from its own stores. But that stock is expected to last till December only.
“The prices of potatoes and onions are rising. As of now we are providing them at reasonable prices from our stocks. But that will last till December only. I don’t know what will happen after that. I have written a letter to the Prime Minister,” Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, said while speaking in an administrative meeting earlier this week.
In February this year, the state government had planned to purchase around one million tons of potato from farmers. The government could, however, purchase only around 42,000 tons of potato before the lockdown started.
“At a time when potatoes are selling in the local market at Rs 45 per kilo, the government is selling at Rs 25 per kilo from 630 outlets. The stock won’t last long,” said a senior official of the state government.
Even though experts are hopeful that the prices of potatoes and onions will go down once fresh supplies hit the market in the winter, the government seems to be concerned and has asked all cold storage units to clear their stocks by November 30.
“This will prevent any kind of hoarding and provide some relief before the fresh winter supplies hit the market. The main concern is that if there is a shortage of supply resulting in a price rise the opposition will get a chance to attack the government before the elections,” said a TMC leader.
Banerjee had earlier sent a letter to Modi urging the Prime Minister to either control the prices of potatoes and onions or allow the state to do so. The parliament had in September passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to deregulate commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes.
“Winter vegetables are being harvested. We hope that the prices would come down once the fresh supplies hit the market in the winter. The prices of some vegetable such as cauliflower and brinjal have already come down. The prices of onion and potatoes are also expected to decline,” said Rabindranath Kole, a member of the government’s task force.
West Bengal needs around six million tons of potato and around eight lakh tons of onion. While the lion’s share of the potato crop is grown in various districts of south Bengal, 80% of the onions come from Maharashtra and other states in south India.
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