Lockdown: Onion prices crash by almost half in a week

Coronavirus Lockdown: Farmers are left without buyers, onion prices crash by almost half in a week

Farmers are selling onions for Rs 300-400 per kg, as against the input cost of Rs 400-500. DHPHOTO/krishnakumar P S

Onion prices have crashed to nearly half the regular market rates over the past week, with farmers getting a mere Rs 300-400 per 50-kg bag of the staple against the input cost of Rs 400-500. 

While the government has set up units to help the farmers sell their produce to consumers directly, a lack of money and networking has left a majority of them in the lurch. 

According to the secretary of Bengaluru Onion and Potato Traders’ Association C Udayashankar, there is no glut in the market. “In fact, the arrivals are limited to about 15,000 bags (of 50 kg) per day whereas we have seen days when 40,000 bags came to the market,” he said. “It’s just that there is no one to buy the produce. So prices have been crashing for the past week.” 

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He said just two weeks ago, a bag of onion was sold for Rs 500 to Rs 700. “It’s a bad deal for farmers as traders have largely kept off the market due to the difficulty in moving the produce between the states. Transporting the produce to the market is a big task for farmers as they lack the networking and the contacts unlike middlemen,” Udayashankar said. 

Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS) president Kuruburu Shanthakumar, however, noted that a majority of the farmers lacked the wherewithal to take their produce to consumers. 

“Such an idea is far-fetched for farmers, as middlemen have controlled the entire trading process for decades. Horticultural farmers growing perishable goods are suffering because the system has failed to consider the gravity of the situation,” he said. 

Udayashankar said the supply would increase once the lockdown was lifted as onions from Karnataka started arriving in mid-April. “Unless the demand increases, the fall in prices will continue,” he said. 

An official in the horticulture department said a lack of processing industries had limited the government’s intervention to help farmers. “We do not have the processing industries, except one in Kolar whose capacity is limited. Karnataka should learn from Tamil Nadu,” he said. 

The KRRS president said all vegetable and fruit cultivators were in distress. “Perishable commodities can’t wait for the lifting of the lockdown. The government should immediately announce a minimum support price,” he said.