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Five Maha traders manipulating onion prices: Report

New Delhi: When there is a scarcity of onion and prices shoot up, it is understandable. But, what if there is no shortage of the essential commodity and yet prices skyrocket, it may lead to suspicions that somebody is manipulating the price of the politically sensitive commodity by creating an artificial shortage.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, which is responsible for monitoring the availability of onions in the country, was in for a rude shock after knowing that there are five traders in Maharashtra who formed a cartel to manipulate the price of onion.
The startling revelation has come to notice of the government after the Intelligence Bureau (IB) submitted a report to the ministry about cartelization of onion prices by five Maharashtra traders. According to a senior official, the ministry received the IB report in July. The IB report clearly mentioned that there was no shortage of onion in the country, but the artificial shortage was created by five Maharashtra traders who hoarded the essential commodity in the villages of Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon in Nashik, an official said on condition of anonymity.
While refusing to reveal the names of five traders identified by the IB, the official said, "The ministry has shared details of the cartel with the Maharashtra government. The Centre has also asked the state government to take stern action against all hoarders."
"In the report, it has been mentioned that since hoarders have stocked onion in Maharashtra, the supply chain of the commodity was affected in other parts of the country resulting in steep rise in onion prices," the official said, adding the Maharashtra government has been asked to submit their action taken report at the earliest. According to the all-India average retail price, onion is being sold at Rs 15/kg to Rs 28.94/kg. The scenario is worse in metro cities as the price rise has been steeper. The essential commodity is being sold at Rs 31/kg in Chennai, Rs 38/kg in Delhi, Rs 40/kg in Kolkata and Rs 30/ kg in Mumbai.
Commenting on the report, Ramesh Chandra Lahoti, who heads Grain Merchants' Association of Bengaluru, said, "It's not new. The commodity market has witnessed several instances of cartelization. We have been raising the issue for a long, but the government never acted on it. The Centre acted after the intelligence agency confirmed the presence of a cartel."
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