Kolkata: Onion prices soared to Rs 140 a kilo on Wednesday in various markets in West Bengal, but the state government was unable to give any assurance of the rates coming down in the immediate future citing inadequate production of the staple vegetable.
"I know, the price of onions has reached Rs 140 a kilo today, and is close to touching the Rs 150 a kilo mark. This is unprecedented. I can't say whether the present price situation will prevail. I am also not in a position to assure the people right now, because production has been very low in our state this year during the Rabi season," Food Processing and Horticulture Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah told IANS.
The retail price was hovering between Rs 100 and Rs 120 over the past few days.
Mollah said onion was produced only over 390 hectares of land in rabi season this year. "In two to three districts during the monsoon, the production took a huge hit. Such a low production can't impact the market.
"We can effectively impact the market during the summer, from March, when around six lakh metric tonne onions will be produced in the state. But for the price situation to ease, a lot will depend on the supplies from (Maharashtra's) Nashik. Also, I hear the Central government is planning to import onions."
He said at present, the state agricultural marketing board was bringing onions from Karnataka, Rajasthan and Maharasta and selling them from the Sufol Bangla stalls set up by the state government at various markets at Rs 59 a kg.
There has been long queues before such stalls over the past weeks as the onion prices started going north. However, the quantities sold from these stalls are too small to have any effect on the market price.
But Mollah said the situation could ease a bit in the middle of the month when onions from Nashik are expected to arrive in the metropolis.
A member of the state task force on vegetables earlier said the situation has come to this pass because of the heavy rains in Nashik which resulted in a large quantity of the bulb rotting following water seepage.
Maharashtra supplies about 70,000 tones of onion to Bengal every month, out of the state's total requirement of one lakh tonnes. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh supply the rest.
Retail sellers said they were buying onion in small amounts due to the skyrocketing prices.
"Today I am selling at Rs 140 a kg. Supply has gone down drastically. If the supply side does not improve, the prices will go up further. I have bought very few onions today," said Bholanath Saha.