Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Notwithstanding the cold December, markets in Odisha look very hot this year. Prices of almost all commodities in the State are pinching the pocket of the common man very hard across the State. But when it comes to burning holes in the pockets of consumers, Balasore, Bhubaneswar, Rourkela and Berhampur deserve special mention.

Why do people on the streets of Odisha not feel huffy and puffy over the steep price hike of food items when retail prices of Arhar Dal during the last one year (2019 Nov -2020 Nov) had risen by around 25 per cent, mustard oil prices jumping by nearly 39 per cent, Sunflower oil by 30 per cent, tomato by 25 per cent? Could it be because the ubiquitous potato clocked the highest rise of around 110 per cent?

And for which Odisha figured the 6th most pricey State in country for the month ending in November this year. The year-on-year inflation rate based on combined Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the month ending in November in the State still measured higher at 8.33 per cent vis-a-vis the national average of 6.9 per cent. Rural Odisha bore the maximum brunt as the inflation rate is higher at 8.95 per cent, reveals the data released by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) on Monday.

Toeing the line of hands-off approach, the State government readily blames the Centre’s (NDA government) new Farm bills for the steep price rise.

“Due to an amendment in the Essential Commodities Act, one among the 3 agriculture bills passed recently, the Centre has removed the stockholding limit. This has led to hoarding across the country. And the common man is paying the price,” said Odisha Minister for Food Supplies & Consumer Welfare Ranendra Pratap Swain.

Is Price Rise In Odisha A New Trend?

History is evident the price rise story for the State is not a one-off episode. Odisha has always been doubly vulnerable to high price shock whenever demand-supply mismatch triggered price rise in the country. And the 2018 report from CRISIL is evident to how the State is prone to hyper inflation rate. As per the report, Odisha had been the third priciest state nationally for Fiscal Years 2013 – 2017.

Sample The Timeline

Year 2009-10: India witnessed a near double digit inflation. And the rate of inflation in Odisha was among the top-5 pricey states in country.

Year 2014-15: It’s the period when the nation saw the prices of dal (pulses) going through the roof to cross the Rs 150/Kg-mark. Odisha was among the third priciest State in country then.

Year 2019: Odisha virtually topped the country with an inflation rate of over 9.4 per cent.

Year 2020: The State was 3rd priciest State in country in October with an over double digit inflation rate of 10.13 per cent vis-a-vis the national average of 7.6 per cent.

Which Commodities Are On Fire?

While cereals (rice) and its products - which carry a high weight of 18.27 per cent in the State CPI and is the second highest among major States in the country after Jharkhand, didn’t show any perceptible rise (prices are mostly stagnant), pulses, edible oil and potato have simply stoked the fire in aam admi’s kitchen. The prices of Atta and sugar per kilo have even fallen byRs2-3/kg during the last 1-year, reveals the data available with the State Consumer Affairs Department.

Consider This

  • In Mustard oil, Bhubaneswar has the 3rd highest rate of Rs 150/litre in India, after Mumbai and Panaji.
  • In Iodine salt, Odisha with a price tag of Rs 20/kilo tops the country along with Uttarakhand.
  • But In Potato, the rate now hovers around Rs 42-45/kilo
  • In Onion, prices are around Rs 48-55/kilo.

The above rate chart shows the price rise in Odisha is fuelled by the rates of edible oil and pulses. And amendment to ESMA has nothing to do with price rise in Odisha.

Why The Spike?

Odisha annually needs around 5-5.5 lakh tonnes of edible oil for consumption. And the whole demand is met by imports from Rajasthan and UP.

“The prices of mustard oil in Odisha will always remain Rs 5/litre more than the price quoted in Rajasthan or UP, and even MP. The transportation cost to Odisha makes the product dearer by around Rs 5/litre, explained Sudhakar Panda, Secretary of Odisha Traders Association.

What Will Be The Solution?

As per Sudhakar Panda, raising the production of edible oilseeds like groundnut and mustard will be the only solution. He revealed a shocker.

“Odisha had been country’s 2nd largest groundnut and 4th largest mustard producer 3 decades ago. But now the State is languishing at 25 th place nationally. This tells why the common man in Odisha is feeling the pinch of price rise more than anywhere in the country.”

He further added that while mustard can be grown in abundance in western and southern Odisha, Jajpur belt has been the fertile bed for groundnut. No effort has been made to increase the nitrogen content in the soil, and the State government has not accepted proposals from traders’ association over adopting cluster based farming, he lamented.

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