Farmers uprooting onions prematurely to cash in on high prices

"Some onion farmers in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, in their lust to cash on the rising prices of the root vegetable, are uprooting the crop almost a month in advance, which is ruining quality of the produce," Azadpur-based Onion Merchants Association General Secretary Rajendra Sharma told PTI.

Onions are normally harvested in the region after January 15, but some farmers have already started pulling the crop from their fields to earn big money in view of skyrocketing rates of the commodity across the country, he added.

Sources in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), Bhavnagar, confirmed that some farmers had arrived in the market yard with their premature onion harvest, but the officials rejected their produce.

"We are meticulously checking the quality of onions before buying them from farmers," APMC Bhavnagar Chairman Jitendra Singh Chudasama said.

At their peak on December 20, a 20-kg sack of onion sold for around Rs 1,230 at the APMC Bhavnagar, but the price has now come down to around Rs 800-850 for the same quantity, the sources said.

Unseasonal rains this year had delayed sowing of onions by a month till November, the APMC Bhavnagar sources added.

Despite being a bulk producing region, Bhavnagar has not been spared from the sky-high rates of onions seen across the rest of the country.

Prices of onions had peaked at Rs 60-65 in Bhavnagar's retail market on December 20, when rates for the commodity had skyrocketed to Rs 70-85 per kg in the retail markets of some metros. However, the retail price of onions in Bhavnagar has now fallen to about Rs 40/kg.

Sharma said that Delhi's Azadpur market -- which is Asia's biggest wholesale fruit and vegetables market -- usually receives around 800-850 tonnes of onions from Bhavnagar every year. However, this year, just 50 tonnes of onions were received.

Gujarat is the third largest producer of onions in the country after Maharashtra, with annual production of over 9 lakh tonnes.

Around 90-95 per cent of Gujarat's onion output is from the Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Junagadh, Rajkot and Jamnagar districts. Bhavnagar district alone contributes 35-40 per cent of the onions produced in the western state.

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