The prices of essential commodities are shooting up, with drought conditions prevailing in parts of the northwest region. In some cases, the rise is so sharp that it is alarming.

As the man on the street grapples with the growing burden, the government claims to have put in place a contingency plan to deal with the consequences of a deficient southwest monsoon.

Though it has been more than seven weeks since the monsoon set in , official statistics show that rainfall remains deficient by 22 per cent in parts of the country. Kharif sowing is 14 per cent lower than last year, owing to the lesser coverage of coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds, largely in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The Centre is considering steps to augment the availability of essentials in the open market, especially of coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and enhance grain allocation through the Public Distribution System. Besides vegetables and fruits, these commodities are showing a steep hike in prices.

According to official data, the retail price of groundnut oil, for instance, has shot up to Rs.167 a kg in Delhi markets, from Rs.128 in the corresponding period last year. Mustard oil has gone up to Rs.103 a kg from Rs. 78. Soyabean oil is selling at Rs. 95 a kg and sunflower Rs.107, up from Rs. 83 and 93 last year. Vanaspati has shot up to Rs. 88 a kg from Rs.77.

Sugar price has escalated to Rs. 38 a kg and is likely to go up further. It was Rs. 33 a year ago on July 25. Jaggery has gone up to Rs. 42 a kg from Rs. 35.

All pulses prices are showing a rising trend. Gram dal has jumped to a whopping Rs. 65 a kg from Rs. 38, while tur is up to Rs. 74 a kg from Rs. 69. Masoor dal is priced at Rs. 60 a kg, as against Rs. 53 last year.

Even loose tea has spiralled to Rs. 174 a kg from Rs. 154. Potato is selling at Rs. 21 a kg, against Rs. 11 a year ago. Experts reckon that unless the government moves in quickly to augment supplies and check hoarding, the prices will hit the roof.

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