For the third consecutive week, onion prices have shown a steady rise as reports of crop damage from the main onion growing zone of Maharashtra started to pour in. On Monday, the average traded price of the bulb at Lasalgoan’s wholesale market was recorded at Rs 5,551 per quintal, the highest this year. Traders have hinted at a further spike in onion prices as arrival of the kharif crop is likely to be delayed.
As unseasonal rain battered the state over the last fortnight or so, onion growing tracts in Nashik, Ahmednagar and Pune have reported extensive damage to the kharif crop, which was about to be harvested. Farmers in these areas also suffered loss to harvested onion crop kept on the fields.
In Maharashtra, farmers normally take three crops of onions, which feed the market round the year. The kharif crop is transplanted from June to July and is harvested post October, while the late kharif crop is planted post September and harvested after December and January.
Farmers also take the rabi crop, which is transplanted from December to January and harvested post March. The rabi crop is the only one which is amenable to storage. Farmers store their produce in moisture- and dust-proof structures on field, called kanda chawl, in order to prevent it from sprouting. This stored onion feeds the market till the arrival of the new kharif crop.
While kharif crop should have started arriving in Nashik and other onion growing areas, unseasonal rain has taken its toll on the same. Other than Maharashtra, kharif crop of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat has also reported damage.
Currently, onions that farmers in Nashik had stored post March are feeding the market. Sources said that at the start of April, farmers had stored 22 lakh tonnes of onion in their chawls in Nashik. However, now only 5 to 7 per cent of it remains. “The new crop has arrived in Karnataka’s Hubli market. Markets in North India have also reported arrival of the new crop. This supply-demand mismatch has pushed up the prices in several parts,” a trader said.
A hike in onion prices earlier in September, just before the state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, had seen the central government clamping down on markets. Onion exports were banned, while the state-owned Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC) had floated tenders for importing 2,000 tonnes of onion.
Sources in the Ministry of Agriculture said that while MMTC’s tenders are yet to materialise, private traders have imported 60-70 containers of the bulb.