By Jaideep Sarin
With onion prices across the country on the upswing, the common man is feeling the pinch. Onion prices crossed the Rs 70 per kg mark at many places on Thursday with most people complaining that the government was not doing enough to contain the price rise.
The Nashik-based National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF), in its latest report, has said that the onion prices are likely to remain on the higher side till September-end.
The foundation also pointed out that out of the storage stock of 40 lakh tonnes in July this year, 50 per cent has been consumed and only about 16-18 lakh tonnes is left over.
In the national capital, onions were selling at Rs 65 per kg in retail, up from Rs 25 per kg just over a month ago. In Chandigarh, Shimla and adjoining areas, onions were selling at Rs 70 per kg and even more.
“We have told our customers that onions will no longer be served as a salad item free of cost. They have to pay Rs 30 extra for a plateful of onions,” Pritam Singh, a dhaba owner in Chandigarh told IANS.
With the festival season round the corner, onion prices in Mumbai could breach the Rs 100 per kg mark soon, a top official said in India’s commercial capital on Thursday.
“Presently, the wholesale rate is around Rs 55/kg, which is expected to go up another average of 15 per cent over the next couple of days. This will have a natural effect in the retail markets,” Agriculture Produce Market Committee (Onions & Potato) chief Ashok Walunj told IANS.
Given the ongoing dry spell in most parts of Maharashtra, Walunj apprehended that the retail onion prices in urban centres like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur could breach the Rs 100 per kg mark in the next couple of weeks.
The wholesale prices of onion in Lasalgaon market in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, during August increased by around 65 per cent compared to the previous month and around 117 per cent compared to last August.
“Onion prices started increasing from mid-July onwards in the Maharashtra and other markets due to less rainfall and slow release of stored stock by the farmers with the expectation of more prices in the coming days due to erratic rains in Maharashtra and the delayed kharif crop,” the NHRDF pointed out.
“The wholesale prices of onion in Delhi market during the month of August 2015 increased by around 52 per cent compared to previous month and around 63 perc ent compared to last year during August,” the foundation added.
As per data available with Agmarknet, an initiative of the agriculture ministry, the average all-India wholesale price of normal sized onion was Rs 5,000 per quintal and Rs 6,800 per quintal for the large-sized ones.
Local vendors in Maharashtra say that transportation issues and irregular rains have led to the hike in the onion prices, adding to the miseries of the buyers. The prices are likely to increase even further, they said.
“Last week most of the stock got destroyed due to rain. We cannot transport the commodity everyday to the mandi but have to store them here,” Shashi Kumar, an onion trader at New Delhi’s Azadpur mandi told IANS.
A vegetable seller in Lucknow’s Hariharnagar Market told IANS that the onion prices last month were Rs 25 a kg and then started to rise steadily.
Housewives blame the onion price rise to “hoarding and black marketing”.
Bina Sharma, a retired doctor living in Lucknow’s Nirala Nagar, told IANS: “Onion prices are out to destroy our household budget once again. We were very hopeful after the (Narendra) Modi government was sworn in but prices have gone up and now we are a worried lot.”
Two people connected with onion trade in Bengaluru blamed the rains for the high onion prices.
“Onion prices have shot up because all the sown onion seeds got washed away due to rains. Now, the prices will only reduce if onions from Maharashtra get supplied. If onions do not come from Maharashtra, the high prices will prevail,” said S. Balakrishna, vice president, Bagatha Onion Union Association, Bengaluru.
“All the old onion stock is over, new onions should come from Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh for the onion price to reduce. It will take three months, maybe from December better onion prices will be available,” said Santosh Kumar of Annai Traders in Russell Market, Shivaji Nagar, Bengaluru.
Kumar is currently selling onions in three grades, a kilogram of premium onions at Rs 56-60, medium onions at Rs 28 and basic quality at Rs 24.
In Kerala, where Onam festival is round the corner, onion prices are causing worries.
“Today, I am selling it at Rs 65 a kg, whereas a week back it was Rs 40. With the festival season of Onam round the corner the price could cross Rs 70,” vegetable vendor Ramesh told IANS in Thiruvananthapuram.
Reshmi Nair, a housewife in the Kerala capital, said that for the time being, she is saved as last week she purchased around five kg of onions at Rs 39 per kg and this would last through the Onam week.
Some housewives are cutting down on onion usage in their homes.
“I use onions in every vegetable, but the steep hike in the prices has now forced me to do without onions in my kitchen. For me, it is no more affordable at Rs 70 a kg,” Archana Bharti, a housewife, told IANS in Shimla.
“The common man feels cheated by the continuous price rise of essential commodities,” she added, blaming the Modi government for not doing enough to check onion prices.