After a bumper crop last year, onion sowing has reduced significantly across the country this year. Estimates show that this year, kharif onion production will be around 60 per cent of its normal production. Drought and consistent low prices of the bulb over the past few months are said to be the main reasons for this dip in the major kharif onion growing states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Kharif, late kharif and rabi are the three major onion seasons round the year. Kharif onions are planted between May and July and the harvesting is done after September. On an average, 2 lakh hectares come under kharif onion production, annually, in these three states and that includes 1 lakh hectares in Maharashtra alone.
This year, a reduction of around 40 per cent in onion sowing area in the state would subsequently result in a dip in production in the months to come. The monsoon has picked up across the country, but lack of rainfall in June seems to be the major reason for this dip.
In Maharashtra, the state government had issued advisories to the farmers and asked them not to start sowing till soil moisture content was 30-40 per cent. This, many say, has resulted in a drastic drop in the sowing area.
Also high prices of maize, soyabean, pulses and vegetables has seen farmers using their farmland to grow these crops, instead of onions. Area under pulse production, in fact, has grown by 46 per cent in the state and many onion farmers have opted to grow pulses due to the good prices.
Over the past five to six months, the onion trade has been going through a sustained slump with prices at an all-time low. This, despite a long period of drought which had actually seen a reduction in onion area at least in Maharashtra. Over the last month or so, onion trade in the Nashik district has been in the doldrums due to the ongoing strife between traders and the market committee.
However, chances of an immediate price rise seems to be remote given the carry forward stock of onion the country has to deal with.