New Delhi: India’s rampant onion prices may finally be running out of steam, with fresh supplies of the vegetable set to hit the market next month.
Prices at one of India’s biggest wholesale markets may plunge to about Rs20-Rs25 (Dh1.03-Dh1.29) per kilogram from mid-January, according to Jaydatta Sitaram Holkar, a director at Agricultural Produce Market Committee, a state-run wholesale market for farm commodities at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra. That’s more than 80 per cent below Tuesday’s record price.
Prices surged to a record Rs111 rupees per kilogram on December 17, according to Narendra Savaliram Wadhavane, a secretary at the state-run wholesale market. Average wholesale prices are still about Rs80 per kilogram, compared with about Rs15 in June and July.
A new onion crop should help ease what has been a catastrophic year for the vegetable in the world’s second-most populous nation. Soaring prices have been blamed for accelerating food inflation and even triggering onion thefts and fist fights, according to some reports.
Though onion prices have fallen across the country after the staple’s imports increased recently, the imported onions are not being liked by consumers as they believe the onions from foreign countries taste different from home-grown ones.
Onions are being imported from Turkey, Egypt and other countries due to the scarcity. Private traders have been importing onions from Afghanistan for a long time.
Traders believe that the colour of onions imported from Turkey is different from home-grown onions. Moreover, Turkey’s onion with thick peels is not being liked by the customers, as they feel that it tastes different from Nashik’s onions.
Savita Bharti, a resident of Delhi’s Shakarpur, said that the taste of “desi” onions is different from onions from foreign countries.
“The yellow-coloured onions available in the market are cheaper, but it’s not tasty. Onion enhances the flavour of dishes, but the foreign onions don’t provide the flavour that desi onions offer,” Bharti said.
Rajendra Sharma, an onion trader and President of the Onion Merchant Association at Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi, said, “At present, onions from Afghanistan, Turkey and Egypt are available in the market, but the customers prefer to buy the yellow-coloured onion as it’s cheaper.”
Another onion trader from Azadpur Mandi said, “Onions from Nashik are liked by customers the most across the country. However, due to heavy rains in Maharashtra during the late monsoon season this year, the crops suffered heavy losses, causing the staple’s scarcity.
To increase the availability of onions across the country, the central government has decided to import 120,000 tonnes of onions, of which import deals of 42,500 tonnes of onions have been made so far, and 12,000 tonnes are expected to arrive by December 31.
The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said on Thursday that MMTC (Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India) has signed a new contract to import another 12,500 tonnes of onions from Turkey.
The key ingredient for Indian curries and chutneys is so ubiquitous that economists are keeping a close eye on prices for signs of when the central bank may cut rates.
The country usually produces more onions than it needs. But this year, heavy rains and flooding damaged stockpiles as well as the monsoon crop in the main growing areas, according to Siraj Hussain, a visiting senior fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi.