At least 40 per cent of the summer onion produce has been destroyed due to the recent hailstorm, the latest survey of the state agriculture department has said. Officers now fear a price rise due to a shortage of the produce.
Onion prices had skyrocketed last year due to failure of the summer crop and the drought situation that had prevailed the previous year. Prices in wholesale markets of Lasalgaon, the biggest wholesale onion market in Asia, had touched as high as Rs 6,000 per quintal, with the product selling at Rs 100 per kg in retail market in certain parts of the country. The prices of onion had subsequently fallen and stabilised at Rs 10-20 per kg in retail markets.
Last year’s price rise, officials pointed out, had resulted in a substantial increase in the onion producing areas of the state. Surveys point out that between December 2013 and March 2014, the area under onion went up by 1 lakh hectares. “The average area under summer onion in the state is 3 lakh hectares, but this has increased to 4 lakh hectares this year. The prospect of getting a good price had emboldened the farmers to go for onion in a big way,” said a senior official. The state produces 50 lakh metric tonnes of onion ever year — 30 per cent of the country’s total onion production.
However, unseasonal and heavy hailstorms that lashed the state last month have damaged the crop. The agricultural survey showed that 40 per cent of the crop was destroyed in the first two weeks of March. The destruction was mostly felt in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. The hailstorms hit the state when the crop was ready for harvest. “In many cases, the crop had already been harvested and kept in the fields waiting to be transported to the storage units. As a result, the entire lot was destroyed completely,” added the official.
On Wednesday, the wholesale price of onion in the various agricultural produce market committees (APMC) ranged between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 per quintal. Commodity analyst Deepak Chavan said massive destruction of the crop had taken place in Nashik, Ahmednagar and Pune belt — the main regions producing onion in the state.”This will have an effect on the price of the produce during May-June. A majority the summer onion goes to the stores and is used till the October crop is ready,” he said.
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Chavan, however, added that the increased area under onion across the state might offset the shortage to a certain extent. “Also, states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have had good crops,” he pointed out.