Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Onion argy -bhaji

Delhi's popular Radio One breakfast show hosts a daily phone-in - and the hot topic for the past couple of weeks has been the price of onions, which have shot up 500% in price.

The lines have been buzzing as listeners call in on one of the most politically sensitive issues in India.

One South Indian restaurant owner calls in to complain that he can no longer afford to carry on with his business because all his dishes rely so heavily on onions that cooking them is just too expensive.

This humble root vegetable is a staple of the Indian diet.

Even on the station's normally sedate woman's hour housewives are calling in irate - demanding to be instructed in cooking dishes that don't require onions.

Priya Baweja, the programme presenter, says it's the topic everyone is talking about.

"We have to give out recipes and we get lots of calls on the high prices," she says.

In the morning market hessian sacks filled with red onions usually arrive by the lorry load - but supplies have begun to trickle. Stall holders are slowly shifting their merchandise but customers are reluctant to buy.

Prices have shot up fivefold - from five rupees a kilo to 25 in the space of a week.

"The recent rainfall has slowed everything down," one trader says. "There is so much demand and yet little supply. Customers don't want to pay - I can't blame them.

"It's just too expensive a price to pay for most households."

The customers I speak to say the same - one woman has to cook for eight family members and her budget simply won't stretch to paying 25 rupees a kilo.

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