BHUBANESWAR: A surge in potato prices in West Bengal has created a rippling effect on Odisha. The prices of potato that was available at Rs 18- 20 a kg in retail markets zoomed to Rs 30 a kg ahead of the weekend shutdown in the Twin City of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The Bengal stores had jacked up the price of potato to Rs 18-20 a kg from Rs 10-12 a kg a week back in the wake of high demand from states likes Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam due to lockdown.
Taking advantage of lax administration of the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department, unscrupulous traders have resorted to fleecing the consumers. “Fifty per cent hike over the wholesale price is not acceptable. This clearly demonstrated that the regulatory mechanism has failed. The Government should be held accountable for such abnormally high retail price of potato,” said general secretary of Kuberpuri Byabasai Sangha Shakti Shankar Mishra.
The most annoying thing is that the potatoes available in the retail markets are of low quality as many of the vendors, new to the trade, are in a hurry to make fast buck by trading substandard vegetables that come cheaper in the wholesale markets.
“The potatoes sold in roadside are priced at Rs 16 per kg. Many of the fast food vendors who have switched trades due to restrictions on their business are vending vegetables. They buy the low quality potatoes, but sell at prices equal to the good varieties,” Mishra said.
Since roadside vending of vegetables is the new normal during this extraordinary situation, vendors have a field day in the absence of vigilance and monitoring of prices of essential commodities by the officials of Food Supplies department. Similarly, onion was sold at Rs 25 a kg which is more than double the wholesale price of Rs 10. The prices of potato remained firm from the beginning of the year despite normal production in West Bengal, the main supplier to Odisha. “Chances of potato prices cooling down in near future is remote as the lockdown followed by cyclone Amphan changed the dynamics of the market,” Mishra said.