With barely 16-18 lakh tonne of onion available for consumption in the country, wholesale prices of the vegetable on Thursday shot up by R400 at Lasalgaon to hit a two-year high of Rs 4,900 per quintal.
“Prices have touched two-year high at Lasalgaon mainly due to decline in supplies as harvesting of onion has been delayed,” said RP Gupta, director, National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF).
The stock of onions has come down drastically from 40 lakh tonne to 16-18 lakh tonne in the last couple of months reducing arrivals by more than 80%. Arrivals reduced to 4,000 quintals at Lasalgaon, the country’s biggest wholesale onion market, with modal prices touching Rs 49 per kg on Thursday. For retail consumers, onion prices are in the range of Rs 60-80 per kg in several markets across the country.
According to the latest onion report from NHRDF, market prices of onions are likely to be on the higher side till September as fresh kharif arrivals are expected from mid-October onwards from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Onion prices started increasing from mid of July in Maharashtra and other markets due to less arrivals. The wholesale prices of onion in Delhi increased by around 146% this month compared to previous month and 63% on August 18 compared to the corresponding date in the last year, Gupta said.
The wholesale prices of onion in Lasalgaon market during August increased by around 159% compared to previous month and around 117% till date compared to the same date in last year.
According to top officials of NHRDF, around 40% of rabi onion was stored in different states in the country from June this year. At present, around 50% of the 40 lakh MT stored stock has been exhausted . Thereafter there have been 10-25% loss till July in storage, leaving just around 16-18 lakh tonne in stock, Gupta said.
“The kharif season has been delayed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and scanty rains have affected production. In Madhya Pradesh, there have been heavy rains damaging nurseries, resulting in reduction in the overall area of production. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, however, the weather condition has been good and the crop should be ready by mid-October,” Gupta said, adding that onion imports are expected in the next forthnight and this may ease prices.
According to Sohan Bhandari, president, Nashik District Onion Traders Association, several traders on their own had tapped markets in Pakistan and China for importing onions. Meanwhile, traders from Punjab have started importing onions in small quantities from Afghanistan through the Attari-Wagah land route.
The Nafed tender to import around 10,000 tonne of onion failed to attract bids and therefore the government has asked state-owned MMTC to import the bulb. The government is looking at import of onions from overseas markets such as Pakistan, Egypt and China.
The fresh crop harvesting of early kharif season has already started in Kurnool area of Andhra Pradesh and Hubli, Chitradurga, Chilekere, Hiriyur and Molakalmuru area of Karnataka. Fresh crop arrivals are coming in the markets of Kurnool, Hyderabad, Hubli and Bangalore. Major kharif onion growing states are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.