KUWAIT: Onions are seen at a supermarket in this representational image. - Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat
KUWAIT: Onions are seen at a supermarket in this representational image. - Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat
Eye-watering onion prices leave sour taste

KUWAIT: Since before the start of the New Year, Kuwait has been grappling with unexpected onion shortages, leading to a surge in onion prices. This situation has particularly affected many Asian expatriates living in Kuwait, as onions play a crucial role in their cuisine. Major exporters like India have banned onion exports due to adverse weather conditions affecting crops in many Indian states.

For Asian expatriates, onions are a staple ingredient, used in everything from simple meals to meat dishes and biryanis. The sudden increase in onion prices has posed a burden on expatriates, especially lower-income families who heavily rely on onions for their daily meals.

In response to this shortage, the government is exploring alternatives for importing onions and considering subsidies to ease the financial strain on consumers. Additionally, there are plans to encourage local farmers to cultivate onions to stabilize the local market.

A manager of a local supermarket, Muthu Koya, explained that India halted onion exports due to poor crops, leading to insufficient stocks for local consumers. He noted India is now importing onions from neighboring countries.

At a Salmiya supermarket, Indian expat Kutub Batliwala expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of onions on sale, mentioning that they were not fit for consumption — wet, moist, some rotten and emitting a foul stench. Despite the high price of 645 fils a kilo, he emphasized the necessity of onions in preparing even a simple dish.

Roger, a Filipino resident, shared his strategy of buying a small quantity of onions, hoping that prices would fall in the coming days. He highlighted the trade-off, mentioning that for 200 fils more, he could buy a frozen chicken. Some residents are adapting to the onion shortage by exploring alternative ways to prepare dishes with minimal or no onions.

Last week, the ministry of commerce pledged cooperation from food outlets to maintain the prices of essential food commodities before the beginning of Ramadan. Consumers are hoping the ministry will continue to ensure price stability and affordability throughout the holy month.

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