Onion prices continue to shoot skyward despite market inspectionNepal imports almost all of its onions from the southern neighbour.
Onion prices continued to shoot skyward on Thursday even though government inspection teams prowled the markets to catch price gougers.
The popular vegetable began flying off store shelves after India issued a ban on its exports on Monday, triggering a jump in prices. Nepal imports almost all of its onions from the southern neighbour.
Fearing that traders would hoard onions to create an artificial shortage, the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection started keeping a close watch on the city's vegetable bazaars.
Industry Minister Lekh Raj Bhatta joined an inspection team and checked a few markets in the Kathmandu Valley himself.
According to consumer rights activists, the artificial price hike and hoarding of onions has not stopped.
The wholesale price of onion jumped from Rs60 per kg on Sunday, one day before the export ban, to Rs110 per kg on Thursday, according to traders. Retail customers were paying Rs150 per kg.
A market inspection team of the Consumer Rights Protection Committee of Kathmandu Metropolitan City on Thursday morning seized 42 bags of onions that three hoarders had stashed away at Harit Krishi Bazaar, Tinkune.
The department fined the traders Rs55,000 each as per the Consumer Protection Act 2018 and ordered them to sell the onions adding a mark-up of not more than 20 percent. They have also been ordered to submit bills for each purchase.
Another inspection team swooped on a few warehouses at the Balkhu Agriculture Vegetable Market and the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market and took action against several traders on Wednesday.
The department claimed that it inspected 20 warehouses selling potatoes and onions in the last three days, and initiated action against nine firms. The department said it slapped fines totalling Rs1.16 million on seven firms on the charge of hiking prices exorbitantly.
Sagar Mishra, director of the department, said the department had asked several onion traders who were caught overcharging customers to produce documents. “We will take action accordingly. “We will take action against traders involved in hoarding and inflating prices,” he said.
The department inspected six vegetable shops on Tuesday, including four stores in the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetable Market.
The department asked errant shopkeepers to submit the related paperwork, invoices and bills within three days.
Consumer rights activists said that there was sufficient stock of onion in the market, but opportunist traders had been creating an artificial shortage to make excessive profits.
Madhav Timilsina, president of the Consumer Rights Investigation Forum, said customers could easily get onions if they were prepared to pay more. “This means there are adequate stocks, but a shortage has been created artificially.”
“As the festival season is approaching, traders tend to engage in profiteering by creating an artificial shortage and hiking prices,” he told the Post.
As there is no exact data regarding the amount of onions in stock, there are chances that the price will increase further, said Timilsina.