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Issue No.: 559 | January 2014
 

Onion Crisis

Sarah Ratnani
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India has become so desperate for the fresh stocks of the onions it uses in spicy curries that it is trying to import them from neighbours, and is even considering airlifts to ease soaring prices. Indians consume 16.5 million tons of onions a year, using them as the base for traditional dishes such as biryani and bhaji. India is the second-largest onion grower in the world after China, and normally exports them. But retail prices have quadrupled in the past three months to as high as 100 rupees ($1.62) per kilogram making the onions an unaffordable luxury for India's poor. The soaring prices could become an issue in elections scheduled for next month in five states, including the capital, New Delhi. To ease prices, the state-run farm cooperative issued a tender this week to purchase onions from abroad. As supplies from abroad may take weeks to arrive by sea transport, the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar proposed air-lifting them. 

The present onion crisis refuses to die down, even as Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) in the onion belt did see a rise in the quantity of onions hitting the market. However, the quality of the onions continues to be a major concern, with traders complaining about the inferior quality of the stock coming in. Some weeks back, at the Lasalgaon APMC, the biggest onion trading market in Asia, the highest price paid for a quintal was Rs 5,500, which was a drop from the Rs 6,000 that the crop had fetched earlier. Around 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of the crop had come to the markets against the normal 15000 to 17,000 quintal during this time of the year. Deepak Pagar, north Maharashtra president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana (SSS), pointed out that the quality of onions being supplied was inferior. Pakistani exporters are eager to cash in on the Indian onion crisis in a big way with the new crop of Sindh province finding its way into the market.

SARAH RATNANI, TYBA History, 
G. N. KhalsaCollege,Matunga, Mumbai-19
 
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