Flood of low-grade onions; price may hit Rs 100/kg

Onions at Yeshwanthpur APMC Yard in Bengaluru on Wednesday. | DH Photo: Pushkar V

Devastating floods across North Karnataka and incessant rain in parts of Central Karnataka and neighbouring Maharashtra have left the onion market in Karnataka in a peculiar situation. The market is flooded with onions but of poor quality owing to high moisture content.

The situation has benefited neither the farmer nor the trader and has brought tears to consumers’ eyes with retail prices touching Rs 80 to 90 a kg in Bengaluru on Wednesday. In a bid to tame the prices, the Centre on Wednesday relaxed quarantine rules for imported crop to ensure speedier access to the market.

The Onion and Potato Traders Association in Yeshwantpur APMC market agreed that it is a peculiar situation. “The supply has not been hit as we have been receiving more than one lakh bags a day. Yet prices are soaring. There is a demand for quality onions which are scarce. About 60% of the loads are either damaged or of poor quality due to rain which has ruined the crop,” B L Shankarappa, president of the association said.

Evidently, the procurement price of onion in Hubballi APMC has also crashed at a time when 90% of the crop across North Karnataka districts has been severely damaged. “While the traders had purchased a quintal of onion last week (Friday) for Rs 6,000, it suddenly plummeted to an appalling Rs 2,150 a quintal on Monday leaving farmers agitated,” an APMC trader from Hubballi said. Farmers had even staged a protest and blocked roads demanding better prices.

Virupakshappa Kotabagi, a farmer from Morab village lamented, “Despite the increasing prices in the market, farmers are paid very less. Also, much of the produce is rotten and infected with fungus forcing traders to bid low prices.”

Saleem Byahatti, president of the Onion Merchants’ Association at Hubballi said, “Initially, there was hardly any supply as floods were at their peak. But now, there has been a steady supply of onions. However, what is worrying is the quality.” Traders have been repeatedly urging farmers to properly dry the onions to get a proper rate.

C Udayashankar, secretary of the Onion Traders Association in Bengaluru says, “There is neither any dearth in demand nor shortfall in supply. But the poor quality of onions is pushing up prices. In Bengaluru, there is a demand for properly dried large onion bulbs. But what we have been getting are only small onions which have a lot of moisture content and cannot be stored for long.”

Bengaluru gets its share of onions from parts of Central Karnataka like Chitradurga and Ballari and from North Karnataka. Besides, onion from parts of Maharashtra also reaches Bengaluru daily. “Bengaluru requires about 50,000 to 60,000 bags of onions a day with each bag weighing about 50 kg. The Bengaluru market also supplies onions to neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Hence, Bengaluru gets about 80,000 to one lakh bags of onion loads a day. Consumption usually shoots up during the festive season and later stabilises,” a trader from Yeshwantpur explained.

The traders felt the situation is likely to continue till the end of December. “The situation would have stabilised had there been no rains. As the floods and rains have damaged about 90% of the kharif crop, the only hope now is the rabi crop that gets sowed late in November and is expected to hit the market by January. Due to shortage of quality onion bulbs, prices would continue to remain the same until December,” opined Shankarappa.

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