Inflation is forcing Indians to switch to cheaper cooking oils

Slippery ground.
Slippery ground.
Image: REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
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India’s central bank may have been slow to acknowledge rising inflation but consumers are feeling the heat.

Prices of edible oils have risen steadily over the past two years, with brief periods of respite because of the government’s interventions. On the whole, households report that prices of everyday kitchen oils like sunflower, mustard, and soybean have risen by 50%-70% since before the covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey conducted by community-led social media platform LocalCircles.

Among the 21,000 respondents surveyed across India, a large majority reported a change in their spending pattern due to this.

The Indian government has tried to curb the rising prices of such oils by cutting import duties and taxes. However, due to global factors like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, prices have continued to rise. India, for instance, relies heavily on sunflower oil imports from Russia and Ukraine.

India’s retail inflation likely rose to a 16-month high of 6.35% in March, apparently fuelled by rising food prices, according to a Reuters poll of economic analysts. Things like lemons are now retailing in New Delhi at 300 rupees ($4) per kg, more than five times their average price.

This is forcing Indians to rethink their everyday expenses.

Cheaper edible oil alternatives

Inflation is mostly being driven by fuel prices and supply chain issues, forcing Indian households to consider cheaper alternatives.

Nearly a third of the respondents to the LocalCircles survey said they now use lower quality edible oils.