Wide variation in Maha onion prices amid crop disease

By: | Published: June 3, 2015 1:28 AM

A survey conducted by the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF) has revealed a wide gap between...

A survey conducted by the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF)  has revealed a wide gap between the minimum and maximum sale prices  of onions and also in their modal prices in the  major onion markets of Maharashtra.  Besides, as a large quantity of the crop has been affected by bacterial rot disease, they cannot be stored, the survey found.

Market rates at  the onion markets at Lasalgaon, India’s biggest wholesale hub for onions, and neighbouring  Pimpalgaon show  that the market prices at present are ranging from R500 to R1,800 per quintal, with a modal rate of R1,000 to R1,100 per quintal. This shows that only a small quantity of good quality onion is arriving in the market, fetching higher rate for  growers. About 90% of the produce coming in the market is of mixed quality i.e. good and rain soaked, and accordingly the rates are being fixed by the purchasers.

On Friday, Lasalgaon market saw some 13,200 quintals arriving with minimum price at Rs 600 per quintal and maximum price at Rs 1,836 per quintal, thus to average at Rs 1,400 per quintal. On Thursday, minimum prices were at Rs 700 per quintal to average at Rs 1,250 per quintal.

At neighbouring Pimpalgaon,    23,950 quintals of onion arrived with a minimum price of R600 per quintal and a  maximum price  of R2,071 and modal prices touching Rs 1,170.

On Thursday, minimum prices were on Friday  were 550 per quintal and maximum prices  R2,100, for an average of R1,150 per quintal. This kind of variation in prices has perhaps been seen for the first time, officials of the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) said. The difference is because of the difference in the quality of onions available with farmers.

Confirming this, R P Gupta, director, NHRDF said that since farmers do not have separate storage facilities for rain-drenched onions, they are forced to sort out onions which are rotting and dispose them before they perish in the market. Some  onions have a shelf life of just one-and-a-half months.

Because of the huge variation in the quality of onions, the prices are also differing with traders willing to pay good prices for onions that can be stored, he pointed out. Gupta says that atleast 20% of the Rabi onion has been affected because of rains during the harvest.

As per the NHRDF’s estimate, around 40 lakh metric tonnne onions have been stored in the current season by both farmers as well as traders. The quantity is  almost the same as  last year’s storage, but the quality of the onion is mixed,  i.e. rain soaked as well as good.

Around 12-15 lakh metric tonne onions are required per month for consumption in the country.

The NHRDF survey on quality and availability of Rabi onion produce in different states notes that due to the unseasonal rains during harvest and even after harvest, partly the onions got soaked in rains, therefore, they are not recommended for a longer period of storage.

“The rain-soaked onion bulbs have also got infected with the bacterial rot disease which will slowly  cause rotting from inner scale to outer scale and after a period of one month or so, the entire bulbs rot causing loss to the growers.

The onion bulbs which are being brought into the markets by the farmers are rain soaked and affected with this disease hence cannot be transported to a longer distance and also cannot  be stored for a longer period”  he said.

Nanasaheb Patil, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, agrees to the wide difference in minimum and maximum prices because farmers are forced to accept lower prices for poor quality.

On the other hand, there is a huge scramble between traders and various agencies for storage of good quality onions for release next year.

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