Onion prices are likely to increase further in the coming days as the Centre’s plan to import around 10,000 tonne of the crop has received a major setback with not a single bidder responding to the tender floated by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed).
With rains playing truant, barely 28% planting has been completed in Maharashtra leading to concerns about lesser output in the coming season.
The Union government had directed Nafed to import onions to tide over the scarcity and stabilise the prices in the domestic market. Accordingly, Nafed had floated a global tender on July 24 for importing onions. Bids were expected from Pakistan, Egypt and China and the last date for filing the tender was August 7. However, not a single bid was received on the last date.
“We have reported to the Centre about the poor response to the bid. It is now up to the Centre to take the next decision if the tender is to be floated again,” senior officials from Nafed said.
Onion prices at Lasalgaon, Asia’s biggest wholesale market for the crop, touched Rs 3,500 per quintal on Tuesday due to weak arrivals of around 4,800 quintals in the market. Modal prices have been hovering around Rs 3,500 to R3,600 per quintal resulting in high retail prices of Rs 50-60 per kg in Maharashtra.
Prices are likely to remain on the higher side, senior officials from National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF) said.
The average wholesale prices at Lasalgaon APMC has shot up by almost 150% in the last 40 days — from R1,450 a quintal on June 30 to R3,550 a quintal till date — following a decline in supply.
While the NHRDF estimates say total onion production is estimated to be lower at 189 lakh tonne in 2014-15 crop year (July-June), slightly lower than 194 lakh tonne in the year-ago period, the plantation speaks another story.
According to Agriculture Department officials, just around 28% planting (34,477 hectares) has been completed in Maharashtra so far and although there is time for the completion of sowing operations, the monsoon situation has the farmers worried. Last year same time, around one lakh hectares had come under onion plantation.
In the state, 1,23,623 hectares come under kharif onion. However, erratic rainfall has affected the plantation by 40-50%. In Nashik district alone, around 22,350 hectares come under kharif onion but this time sowing has been completed on just 1,054 hectares.
As of now, about 30 lakh tonne of stored onion is left in the domestic market to cater to the demand till September.
According to RP Gupta, director, NHRDF, the erratic monsoon has been impacting the produce. The area is definitely going to be less, he said.