Last month, the Indian Rupee plunged by the most in over 20 years which has resulted in a 30% loss of global purchasing power for families in India.
As a result of the sharp increase in inflation and supply shortages, food prices across India have skyrocket forcing the average price of a kilogram of onions to more than triple in the past two months.
“Onions can now cost up to 100 rupees a kilogram in India, where much of the population uses the vegetable in almost every meal.”
Groupon, which as Tech Crunch notes, is tantamount to a loan sharking business that grotesquely distorts prices with deeply discounted deals from restaurant meals to shoes, recently offered onions at 9 rupees or about 15 cents a kilogram.
That day, Groupon sold 3,000 kilograms of onions in 44 minutes, causing the website to crash. More than 8,000 kilograms were purchased when Groupon continued the sale the next day before they sold out.
“We wanted to sell it at a price that most of us have completely forgotten,” said Anur Warikoo, chief executive of Groupon in India. “This kind of onion price was last seen in 1999.”
As the news website Aljazeera points out, the goal of the sale was to draw more customers to Groupon, but the sale revealed a darker, worsening problem in India: the rapidly increasing price of one of the country’s most-consumed commodities.
But even basic food items such as bread, eggs and milk, cooking oil, spices and condiments, hit new highs in 2012. Earlier this year, The Times of India reported a small 400gm loaf of sliced white bread cost Rs 18, up from Rs 12 to 14 a year ago.
“Given that most households require one loaf a day, the increase translates to Rs 120 per month,” says Khar resident Sameena Gulrajani.
“The cost of cooking oil is rising by Rs 5 to 7 every few weeks. Until 2009, safflower oil was stable at Rs 72 per litre. It now costs Rs 155, having gone up by Rs 25 in the past year alone. And the Planning Commission says Rs 32 per day is enough to sustain an individual in the city?”
Armed Robbers Target Onion Trucks
Last month, NBC News reported armed robbers were targeting trucks hauling tons of onions.
India has a 19 percent share of global onion production, second only to China, and the cost of a pound of onions has risen from around 9 rupees (13 cents) to an average of 45 rupees (65 cents) in August alone.
The onion shortage is an obsession in the country and makes front-page news; high onion prices can even affect elections.
“Onions have a long played a symbolic role in Indian politics. In January 1980, the Indian National Congress Party leader Indira Gandhi returned to power, campaigning against rising onion prices. At rallies she waved huge strings of onions and said a government has no right to govern if it cannot control onion costs.”
“We all need onions,” businessman Pradeep Kohli said. “My dining table is incomplete without onions, they’re used in all Indian dishes and salads. What do we do if we can’t have onions? It’s a worrying time.”
Retired government employee Santosh Nanda added that rising food costs are hard on the elderly. “Our dinners are more expensive now than ever,” the 65-year-old Nanda said.
“Old people like me we keep an amount of money aside each month for vegetables but this month we have exceeded that budget three times over. We cannot leave onions out of our dishes but all we can do is consume less.”