Onion prices could go up again: Survey

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune | Updated: Nov 4 2013, 14:31pm hrs
Onion pricesA labourer spreads onions for sorting at a wholesale vegetable market in Chandigarh. (Reuters)
Days after Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced that onion crisis was over, a recent survey by the Department of Agriculture has indicated that onion prices may soar again. The recent survey found that around 40 per cent of the monsoon onions, which were to hit the market in the first week of November, was washed away in the exceptionally heavy rainfall that hit various parts of the country last month.

Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh are the major producers of Kharif onion that hits the markets early November. The failure of the summer crop had seen the prices of onions hitting the roof, with the retail rate touching the Rs 100-a-kg mark at some places. Shortage of onions in the markets was cited as the reason for the price rise, with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar claiming that good November crop would help bring down the prices. Subsequently, a survey was commissioned by the agriculture and allied departments to study the state of the monsoon onion crop.

Nashik, Pune, Solapur and Ahmednagar are the main onion producing districts of the state, while Dharwad, Chitradurga, Gadag, Haveri, Bagalkot and Davengere are the zones that produce most onions in Karnataka. The districts of Surendranagar and Bhavnagar are the onion zones of Gujarat, while Nalanda and Patna are the onion producing districts of Bihar. In Andhra Pradesh, Kurnool and four other districts are the onion belt.

As per the survey, around 25-30 per cent of the onion crop was washed away in Gujarat, Bihar and the districts in North Karnataka. In Maharashtra, the survey said, a majority of the crops got washed away at the storage points due to unseasonal rains. In Dharwad, the November crop was destroyed because of lack of rains. The onion crop in Andhra Pradesh would be the only one hitting the market on time.

The survey pointed out that while 15,899 lakh tonnes of onion had hit the markets between September and October 2012, the figure is only 12,743 tonnes during the corresponding period this year.

Jaydutt Kshirsagar, president of the Lasalgaon Agricultural Produce Market (APMC), said while the market used to see 25,000 quintals of the crop coming for daily trade, of late they were getting hardly 2,500-3,000 qunitals per day. The rains have spoiled the monsoon crop also and the prices would rise in the next few days. There is no crop with the farmers, he said.

P K Gupta, joint director of Nashik-based National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF), however, said there might be a fall in the onion prices immediately after Diwali. The APMC markets are closed for Diwali and once when they open, there will be excess crop, which will result in a fall in the prices, he said. Asked about the response to the import tenders floated earlier for onions from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan, Gupta said no action had been taken on that front.