Lack of storage facilities leads to spike in onion prices in State
The skyrocketing prices of onion in the State are mainly because of lack of awareness among farmers on storage facilities for the harvested crop and the subsequent dependence on the yield and supply from Maharashtra.
In a survey conducted by the National Research Centre for Onion and Garlic five years ago, Karnataka — the second largest producer of onion in the country — recorded a zero per cent awareness on storage facilities for onion and garlic.
In comparison, Maharashtra and Gujarat — two other large-scale producers of onions — recorded 58 per cent and 38 per cent awareness respectively in increasing the longevity of onion.
Following the report, the Central government launched a project to raise awareness and build ‘Improvised Storage Facilities’ in Karnataka. As a result, as many as eight large demonstration storage facilities were built in six districts — Davangere, Haveri, Dharwad, Gadag, Bagalkot and Bijapur — in the past three years under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
Large-scale storage facilities have also been built at the University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkot (UHSB) and the College of Horticulture, Munirabad (Koppal district).
Dr Lakshman Kukanoor, a professor at UHSB and the principal investigator for the project to popularise storage facilities for onion and garlic, is of the opinion that if farmers start exploiting the available schemes for building storage facilities, prices will remain stable in the future.
“Prices have skyrocketed as Maharashtra exported its stored onions harvested in February. When produce of local farmers arrives by the end of September, prices will crash and the market will bleed as there are hardly any storage facilities in the State,” said Kukanoor.
The storage facilities are available for prices ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs one lakh and beyond, depending on the size of the farmer’s yield. At the district level, large-scale storage facilities are available, which can store onions up to 20 tonnes.
While the Horticulture Department is encouraging farmers to store the crop under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM), providing them a subsidy of 50 per cent for construction of storage facilities, the response appears to have been lukewarm. The Joint Inspection Team (JIT) also reiterated it last January, observing, “Facilities for proper storage of onion are inadequate in the State.”
Kukanoor said the progress had been slow and farmers in Bijapur were responding. As many as 25 storage facilities have been constructed under the NHM, he added.
Karnataka accounts for 17 per cent of the total production of onion in India. Onion is grown on 0.19 million hectares of land and the production is about 2.59 million Metric Tonnes (MT). The productivity of onion in the State is 13.6 MT/ha.