Onion prices steady; tomato, garlic rates ease

Fall in arrival of supplies led to the sharp surge in onion prices in Chennai, traders said, pointing that against 10 lorries yesterday only three lorries arrived in the wholesale market there today.

Delhi too saw wholesale rate of onion increase by about Rs 3 a kg in Azadpur mandi, Asia's biggest wholesale market of fruits & vegetables, due to drop in arrivals owing to fog, but there was no pass through effect in retail prices.

The wholesale rate at Azadpur ruled at Rs 12-40 per kg. Good news for households came from Kolkata and Mumbai where prices of tomato and garlic eased by up to Rs 15 per kg and up to Rs 100 a kg, respectively, today, although they remained unchanged in Delhi and Chennai at Rs 40-50/kg and Rs 250-300/kg respectively.

Besides a marginal rise in Delhi, wholesale rate of onion also rose in Pimpalgaon (by Rs 8/kg at Rs 46/kg) while it eased substantially (by Rs 16/kg at Rs 31/kg) in Lasalgaon (the largest onion market in the country).

Nashik-based National Horticultural Research Development Foundation Director R K Gupta attributed today's onion price rise at Pimpalgaon to farmers unhappiness over softening of rates.

"Some farmers in the area are unhappy over softening prices of the vegetable and hence are bringing less quantity to the purchasing centres," Gupta told PTI over phone.

Azadpur market-based Onion Merchants Association General Secretary Rajendra Sharma said: "There has been substantial fall in number of vehicles arriving in the market today from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh."

Only about 550 tonnes of onion reached Azadpur market today against 850 tonnes yesterday, Sharma added.

In the national capital, state-run outlets such as Nafed, Kendriya Bhandar and NCCF were selling the edible kitchen bulb at a concessional rate of Rs 35 a kg, while Mother Dairy was vending onions at Rs 40 per kg.

"Onion continues to sell at Rs 40 a kg from our outlets in Delhi today...the rate is monitored on a daily basis after watching the price trend in the wholesale market," Mother Dairy spokesperson Neha Banerjee told PTI.

Meanwhile, a team of Agriculture ministry officials reached Nashik today to assess the extent of damage to the crop due to unseasonal rains in November-December this year, official sources said.

Onion had shot up to Rs 70-80 a kg in the last fortnight, prompting government to take urgent action including a ban on exports and abolition of import duty, while many state governments facilitated sale of onion at a concessional price.

As onion prices started easing following government intervention, prices of tomato and garlic had started surging.

A top agriculture ministry official said yesterday that there was no rationale behind the increase in rates of tomato and garlic, even though one could appreciate the spurt in onion on account of the damage to the crops due to rain.

In Mumbai today, tomato prices fell by Rs 12 a kg at Rs 48/kg from yesterday's level of Rs 60/kg while it dipped by Rs 15/kg at Rs 25 per kg in the Eastern metropolis.

Garlic, which is used both as a kitchen spice and to make ayurvedic medicines, fell sharply in Mumbai and Kolkata by Rs 100/kg and Rs 50/kg respectively. It sold at Rs 200/kg in the two metropolis from Rs 300/kg and Rs 250/kg respectively there yesterday.

An Empowered Group of Ministers on Food headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is meeting here in the backdrop of high prices of vegetables, especially onion, tomato and garlic.

A report from Lucknow said that prices of onions tumbled in the wholesale market today after the district administration opened 25 outlets for sale of the vegetable at Rs 22-24 a kg since yesterday.

Buoyed by the success of the outlets, the district administration plans to open 25 more outlets to sell onions at low rates, an official said.

Sources in Azadpur market claimed that in order to cash in on the exorbitant prices of garlic (at Rs 300 a kg in retail and Rs 120-180/kg in the wholesale market), some traders were illegally bringing garlic from China into the country via Nepal.

India had banned import of garlic from China two years ago following the detection of fungus in consignments of Chinese garlic.

From the Himalayan states, it is being transported to Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Coimbatore through trains from Bihar, which shares a border with Nepal, they claimed.

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