Taming vegetable prices biggest challenge: Thomas

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New Delhi, Jan 19 (PTI) The new minister for ConsumerAffairs, Food and Public Distribution K V Thomas today saidcontaining prices of vegetables, including onion, will be hisbiggest challenge.

Thomas, who was a junior minister under Sharad Pawar ofthis ministry along with agriculture, was today elevated andgiven independent charge of the ministry.

"The biggest challenge will be price rise of onion andother vegetable items," Thomas told reporters here.

He said prices of vegetables have to be brought undercontrol with the assistance of state governments, panchayatsand farmers.

"I think everybody should work together," Thomas, whohails 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 ofvegetables like onions.

Retail prices of onions had risen to Rs 70-85 per kg onDecember 21, 2010 due to short supply in the wake ofunseasonal rains in the key producing states. Although pricesof bulb have currently come down slightly to Rs 50 per kg inmetros, 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 majorcities. The sudden rise in the prices of these two kitchenstaples has put the government under pressure.

Recently, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had saidthat his ministry has not direct control over the cultivationof vegetables like onions.

He had also said the rise in prices of vegetables weredue to seasonal factors.

Spelling his priorities in the Food Ministry, Thomas saidthat distribution of foodgrains to poor through ration shopsacross the country is a "herculean task".

"From Lakhsdweep, Andaman

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