Onion prices in Maharashtra are plummeting following a bumper arrival of early kharif onions, said Nitin Jain, a trader from Lasalgaon market in Nashik.
Arrivals are said to be three times larger than they were last year. By end of trading on Wednesday, the price fell as low as ₹200 a quintal and the modal price to ₹430 a quintal.
At the Lasalgaon wholesale market, which serves as the benchmark for onion prices across the country, prices have ranged between ₹200 and ₹500 a quintal over the past month.
Jain also attributed this price dip to a deluge of the Rangda onion, which, in trade circles, is called the wrestler onion for its large size and high water content.
Traders earlier hoped that the market would stabilise by mid-January after the massive firesale of stored onions, but that did not happen, notes Jain. “The Rangda onion, which gets planted by October and is harvested in 100 days, has arrived in large quantities; such a situation hasn’t been witnessed in the past 10-12 years,” he said.
In the year gone by, Maharashtra has faced an oversupply of the kitchen staple due to excessive holding of kharif onions or Gavthi onions, which have a longer shelf-life and usually arrive by March. In 2018, there was a massive storage of such onions. Farmers retained their stock for over six months in the expectation that prices would rise. But they never did, and by December, panic-stricken farmers literally dumped the onions.
Satish Lunkad, Managing Director of Nashik-based onion exporting firm ST Sumal, said that never in his 35-year career had he seen such excess production and massive price dips.
Lunkad also attributed this situation to some of the State government’s policies. In the past 15 years, the Maharashtra government had extensively funded onion storage facilities called Kanda Chal across the State. This resulted in large-scale storage of onions that had been harvested in March 2018.
These Gavthi onions usually get sold by November, but this time they continued to be available till January. This market surplus, along with large arrivals of Rangda onions, led to the price crash.
Lunkad also pointed out that extensive cultivation, coupled with high-yielding onion seeds, had led to a surplus of the bulb in Maharashtra.
Earlier, farmers would get about 100-150 quintals per acre, but now the yield has risen to 250-300 quintals.