Imported onions rot as local produce hits market in Bengaluru

Onion supplies from Egypt and Turkey have failed to sustain the initial enthusiasm. DH photo/B H SHIVAKUMAR

Bengaluru: Traders who imported onion from Turkey and Egypt have been left high and dry as the arrival of the staple grown in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh over the past one month has led to poor demand for the imported onion, which is slowly rotting in the Yashwantpura APMC yard.

As the onion prices crossed the Rs 200 mark in the retail market, the Union government facilitated the import of the vegetable from several countries. The initial enthusiasm towards the golden onion from Turkey and the red onion from Egypt soon waned as the consumers rejected them.

Lokesh K, president of Potato and Onion Merchants Association, said the onion produce within the country has increased over the last one months.

“Especially in the past two weeks, we have seen a sudden spurt in the supply, which will only increase in the coming days. The price has come down after the produce from Bijapur, Kalaburagi, Raichur arrived in the wholesale market over the past two weeks, even as the supply from Maharashtra and other states went up,” he said. 

Imported at a cost

More than half of the 750 tonnes of golden and red onion bought by importers from Mumbai, Mangaluru and Hubballi has not been lifted.

“The golden onion has been rejected due to its high water content. Consumers said they don’t like the red onion as cooking with it turns the dish into a deep purple mess,” said Muniyappa B, a salesman from Rajajinagar, who had come for shopping.

Both types of onions were imported at Rs 40-65 per kg and sold at Rs 100 to 120 per kg two months ago, when the floods had destroyed the crop in Maharashtra and North Karnataka, leading to the shortage of onion.

As the initial demand for the foreign onions fell, the stock in the godown has started rotting. 

“We had 25 tonnes of the golden onion which was initially sold at Rs 35-40 per kg. Now, nobody is looking at it even if we offer it for Rs 15/kg,” said Raghavendra P S of N Siddappa Traders.

Lokesh Byahatti, one of the few importers in Karnataka based in Hubballi, said half of the 2,800 tonnes of imported onion has caused the loss. Refusing to share the cost, he said: “The first half of the product brought good returns. We are struggling to sell the product even after lowering the price to a quarter of its original cost,” he said.

Onion price to hit floor in March 

As loads of onion produce from several districts in north Karnataka, besides Maharashtra, has picked up, the prices of the staple have fallen from Rs 70 to Rs 30 in the last two weeks.

Lakesh, president of Onion and Potato Traders Association, said traders feared that the price may crash to Rs 10 or even lower by March-end.

“The supply from Challakere has not yet begun. Thousands of farmers across north Karnataka have planted onion after hearing about the profit made by some during the shortage. We are expecting a glut at the beginning of March,” he said.

The signs of glut were visible on Monday. Vishwanath Amruth Ghodke, a farmer from Afzalpur in Kalaburagi, who had brought 10 quintals of onion, wore a sad face. “Three weeks ago, I had got Rs 12,000 per quintal. Today, they are thinking twice to pay Rs 3,000 per quintal,” he said.

Chandrashekhar Poojari and Shivalingappa K, both farmers from Shirnoor, said their produce, considered by the APMC as second grade quality, was sold at Rs 8,000 per quintal just a week ago.

“Today, we have brought about 200 bags of 50 kg. We are struggling to get Rs 2,500 per quintal,” Poojari said.

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