Onion exports jumped 64 per cent in volumes to hit a six year high at 25.25 lakh tonnes during 2022-23 on strong overseas demand and higher supplies. In value terms, onion shipments were up 22 per cent at $561 million over the previous year.

Shipments rose on higher purchases by large buyers such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka.

“Lack of competition over the past few months coupled with higher overseas demand helped India export more onions during 2022-23,” said Ajit Shah, President, Horticulture Produce Exporters Association. “However, we couldn’t take the full advantage of the global situation as countries such as the Philippines did not open up its market for India, while preferring to buy the Chinese produce,” he said.

Shah said exports prospects for the current year look good. However, due to the unseasonal rains, there is a lot of damage to the cargo, he said. “Onion is available in plenty, but the good quality produce is less. Presently, the market is down because of the higher availability of poor grades and rain damaged produce in the market. How much of this can be exported, we have to wait and see.” Shah said.

Pakistan competition

The new crop in Pakistan, mainly from the Baluchistan, is also seen entering the global market and the Indian exporters are likely to face some competition from the neighbouring country considering that their currency has weakened considerably against the dollar.

“We have a good crop. We have to see how the quality will remain after one month, especially after the unseasonal rains in April -May and the heat waves. Further pricing will depend on the quality of the crop going forward,” Shah said.

In 2022-23, Bangladesh continued to be the largest buyer of Indian onions at over 6.7 lakh tonnes, followed by United Arab Emirates at 4.03 lakh tonnes, Malaysia at 3.93 lakh tonnes and Sri Lanka at over 2.7 lakh tonnes.

Malaysia has more than doubled its purchase of onions while the shipments rose about three times to UAE during the year. In 2021-22, Malaysia’s imports of Indian onions stood at 1.70 lakh tonnes, while UAE had imported 1.22 lakh tonnes. “Demand continues to remain good for the Indian onions and we expect to sustain the shipment volumes” Shah said.

As per the Agriculture Ministry data as on May 8, rabi onion has been planted on 11.08 lakh hectares, higher than the targeted area of 10.76 lakh hectares, but less than the previous year’s 11.67 lakh hectares. As per the third advance estimates for 2021-22, onion production is projected at 31.27 million tonnes, up from previous year’s 26.64 m t.