New Delhi: The new minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution KV Thomas Wednesday said containing prices of vegetables, including onion, will be his biggest challenge.
Thomas, who was a junior minister under Sharad Pawar of this ministry along with agriculture, was Wednesday elevated and given independent charge of the ministry.
"The biggest challenge will be price rise of onion and other vegetable items," Thomas told reporters here.
He said prices of vegetables have to be brought under control with the assistance of state governments, panchayats and farmers.
"I think everybody should work together," Thomas, who hails from Kerala, said.
Food inflation still continues to rule high at 16.91 percent for the week ended January 1 on account of high prices of vegetables like onions.
Retail prices of onions had risen to Rs 70-85 per kg on December 21, 2010 due to short supply in the wake of unseasonal rains in the key producing states. Although prices of bulb have currently come down slightly to Rs 50 per kg in metros, but rates are still pinching the budget of households.
Besides onions, prices of tomatoes have also gone up. They are available in the range of Rs 30-50 a kg in major cities. The sudden rise in the prices of these two kitchen staples has put the government under pressure.
Recently, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had said that his ministry has not direct control over the cultivation of vegetables like onions.
He had also said the rise in prices of vegetables were due to seasonal factors.
Spelling his priorities in the Food Ministry, Thomas said that distribution of foodgrains to poor through ration shops across the country is a "herculean task".
"From Lakhsdweep, Andaman & Nicobar Island to Northeast, we have been sending these food items to poor by ship, airlifting and even on the shoulders of the people," he said.