Pricey onions spur govt into action

Pricey onions spur govt into action

Drought in north Maharashtra and Marathwada hit output. Crop from Karnataka has started arriving but it is not enough.

The Centre is working overtime to ensure onion shortage does not affect BJP’s prospects in the upcoming Assembly elections in five states, the majority of which are consuming ones.

There has been an increase of up to Rs 10 per kg in the wholesale prices of onion in the past 7-10 days followed by a steep northward jump in prices at Lasalgaon in Nashik district, one of the biggest onion trading centres of the world.

And, what is more worrying is that during Diwali, the retail prices of the red bulbs could jump and settle between Rs 40 and Rs 45 a kg, traders reckon.

The Centre called a meeting of stakeholders on Friday despite the Dasara holiday.

The meeting chaired by the secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Avinash K. Srivastava asked National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) to increase supplies and asked states to monitor the situation.

Drought in north Maharashtra and Marathwada hit output. Crop from Karnataka has started arriving but it is not enough. These states account for the bulk of supply in October and November. After that, crop from Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab and Odisha start arriving.

“Rains were delayed in the onion belt of Nashik, Ahmednagar and Dhule. Moreover, there was almost no rainfall in September, that is crucial for onion,” Pune-based agriculture expert Deepak Chavan told DH.

“Kharif is affected and outlook of rabi is also not good,” he said, adding that onion as a cash crop is highly price sensitive. “We have to note that the stocks in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are not enough and also in Maharashtra, there are issues related to storage,” said Changdev Holkar of NAFED in Mumbai. He said last week, the wholesale prices in APMCs were between Rs 700 and Rs 800 per quintal, which has increased to Rs 2,000-plus per kg.

Kharif onion is sown during June-July and harvested by the end of September. The rabi crop is sown in late November and early December and harvested in March and April.

Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh cultivate both Kharif and rabi onions and it is the rabi crop which keeps the trade going in wholesale markets till the end of August.

Though the government claims that the sown area under the Kharif onion crop is higher than last year and its arrival has commenced from Karnataka, farm experts are convinced that shortage of water in the main onion belt has reduced the moisture content in the red balls and lessened their yield.

Of the five states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana — going to polls next month, only the first two are onion producing states, the rest only consume.