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Onion exporters hope for good season ahead as competition in export market hots up

Onion prices have been on the higher side despite good arrivals. On Thursday, market arrivals at Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market for onion, were 17,000 quintals with modal prices touching Rs 2,100 per quintal. Prices were Rs 2,250 per quintal on Tuesday.

Normally, onions are exported throughout the year, but the rabi crop, which is sown in December- January and harvested post-March comprises majority of the export basket due to lower moisture content and longer shelf life of the bulb.
Normally, onions are exported throughout the year, but the rabi crop, which is sown in December- January and harvested post-March comprises majority of the export basket due to lower moisture content and longer shelf life of the bulb.

Higher prices of Indian onions could impact exports. Between April and November 2021, exports have been in the range of the 10.55 lakh tonne, according to senior horticulture officials. Onion exports in the 2020-21 season were 15.75 lakh tonne, despite the pandemic situation.

Ajit Shah, president, Horticulture Produce Exporters Association, pointed out that the Indian onion is quoted higher in the export market and, therefore, exports have been affected.

Onion supplies from Pakistan are quoted at $300 a tonne whereas the Indian stock is quoting at $500, he said. Moreover, the kharif crop was damaged due to heavy rains across onion-growing states, affecting the quality of the bulb, and thus, impacting onion shipments from the country.

Onion prices have been on the higher side despite good arrivals. On Thursday, market arrivals at Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market for onion, were 17,000 quintals with modal prices touching Rs 2,100 per quintal. Prices were Rs 2,250 per quintal on Tuesday.

Normally, onions are exported throughout the year, but the rabi crop, which is sown in December- January and harvested post-March comprises majority of the export basket due to lower moisture content and longer shelf life of the bulb.

Shah said that with the new crop expected to hit the market in the next fortnight, prices are likely to come down and India could then become competitive in the export market. So far, since the Indian onion has been more expensive, importing countries have been looking to Pakistan and Iran.

The late kharif onion will soon be harvested and the rabi onion should be ready for harvesting March onwards, traders said, adding that there is no cause for worry as onion production is expected to be good.

Govind Hande, technical officer, exports, Maharashtra Horticulture Department, said that the last couple of seasons have been bad both for the farmer and exporter due to incessant rains but exports should begin to pick up from February onwards.

India exported 15.88 lakh tonne in the 2017-18 season, 21.82 lakh tonne in the 2018-19 season, 18.49 lakh tonne in the 2019-20 and 15.75 lakh tonne in 2020-21. In FY21, India exported $378 million worth of onions, 15% higher than the previous year.

The top exporting destinations are Bangladesh ($101 million), Malaysia ($62 million), the United Arab Emirates ($44 million) and Sri Lanka ($42 million). Indian onions have some established markets, especially in West Asian countries, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the UK, among others.

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