Staple vegetables could be bought under the Essential Commodities Act

Mobile vans will sell onions and potatoes and Safal outlets will double their stock of these vegetables. At a meeting with officials on Wednesday, Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung charted steps to control prices of these vegetables. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs will also be asked to bring these staple vegetables under the Essential Commodities Act which would empower the police to crack down on traders who hike the price by artificially restricting supply.

Wholesale price inflation jumped to a five-month high in May and potato prices went up by 19 per cent pushing overall food inflation to 9.5 per cent. Jung’s steps came a day after the Centre introduced a minimum export price of $ 300 per tonne of onions.

National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) has been asked to procure onions for Delhi and increase its existing storage capacity of up to 400 tonnes. The Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board will advertise fair prices everyday and sell the two vegetables, whose prices have had direct political bearing in the past, from mobile vans. Special Commissioner of Police Taj Hassan would coordinate searches to prevent hoarding.

At a separate meeting with Union Health Minister and Chandni Chowk MP Harsh Vardhan, the L-G reviewed development work at Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid. The redevelopment plans are focussed on linking the area visually and physically to the Red Fort in addition to creating contemporary facilities without changing the area’s historic character. Dr. Vardhan and Mr. Jung stressed on fast tracking the project for which the North Delhi Municipal Corporation is the nodal agency.

The facilities planned include a tram service, a tourist interpretation centre and restructuring overhead installations like transformers to place them underground.

But prices remain constant at the wholesale markets

Though official records show an upward trend in prices of food items, the prices of fruits and vegetables at the Azadpur wholesale market have remained nearly “constant” over the past few months.

A case in point is onion, which is still selling in the market at the Rs.5 to Rs.18 per kg price band, depending on the quality. The trend was the same last month too. The highest price for onion has not crossed Rs.25 in the wholesale market, said Rajender Sharma, former chairman of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee.

Mr. Sharma said while most of the vegetables are selling in the price range they were in about a month ago, tomato has in fact hit a low with one kilogram available at Rs.3 to Rs.5. Supply of vegetables to the wholesale market has also seen a spurt this year. "The monsoon this year has resulted in high yields, flooding the markets with fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus supply has been more than adequate this season.”

A wholesale market official said he was expecting a dip in prices after July 10. Explaining the reasons for the same, he noted: “The prices are usually low at the start of the harvest. The prices usually witness a hike only after the grading of the vegetable. Once it ages and obtains a certain size and shape, the demand goes up.”

Apprehensions related to cartelisation and hoarding of the yield was dismissed by the officials at the mandi who said "stocking" should not be confused with hoarding.

“Cartelisation of vegetables and fruits is not really possible because of their perishable nature. For example, potato is not harvested beyond mid-July. In such a case, it is important to stock the harvest for future demand. This is not hoarding,” said an official.

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