Traders warned as Indian onions hit RM24 per kg

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement director Iskandar Halim Sulaiman carrying out checks at the Rex Canning Co Sdn Bhd warehouse in Bukit Mertajam.

BUKIT MERTAJAM: The price of Indian onions is skyrocketing with at least one trader reported to be selling it at RM24 per kilogramme – a far cry of what used to cost only RM2 to RM5 per kg just three months ago.

In the past two weeks, prices were reported to be around RM15 to RM20 per kg throughout wet markets in the country, while larger supermarkets were selling the onions for about RM6 per kg.

The increase in price is due to India setting minimum import prices for onions.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement director Iskandar Halim Sulaiman said there had been complaints from consumers that the price of onions had gone up to RM24 per kg.

In a press conference here, he said the authorities were aware that Indian onions were scarce since India imposed import restrictions.

He said it was acceptable for the onions to be priced around RM6 to 7 per kg but not double digits.

“We are keeping a close watch on these traders who are selling onions at over RM20 a kilo. As of yesterday, we heard one trader was selling it at RM24 a kilogramme.

“We will take stern action under anti-profiteering laws on those who continue to sell these onions at unreasonable prices,” he said.

On claims by the Consumers’ Association of Penang that some wholesalers could be hoarding Indian onions which were bought at cheaper prices, he urged the association to hand over its findings to the ministry.

The increase in prices is attributed to India raising the minimum export price of onions to US$850 (RM3,474) per tonne to keep stocks for local consumption following an acute shortage caused by floods in key onion-growing states.

Malaysia had imported 332,451 tonnes of fresh onions worth US$74.1 million in 2018.

Meanwhile, Iskandar also revealed that a large-scale anti-profiteering operation would be carried out this year, with at least 1,060 premises to be inspected throughout the country.

He said at least 2,000 enforcement officers would patrol all outlets to ensure prices were not above reasonable limits.

Iskandar said last year, 118 investigation papers (IPs) had been opened over profiteering, with six cases currently in court. He said in 2018, there were 22 IPs.

He said the lower figure in 2018 was due to a shift to a new system and the repeal of the GST.

Under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, those found to be charging beyond reasonable rates can be fined a maximum of RM1 million or three years’ jail or both if convicted.