India: High rates but low outputs means no big gains for onion farmers at this time

A season after they threw away onions on roads last December to protest the slump in prices, farmers are hoping to turn a profit from the summer crop. Because they are expecting that the current output may fall short of demand, farmers are holding on to their crop, which has led to a jump of nearly Rs300 (€3.85) per 100 kgs in the last 10 days.

However, the bigger gain has been for those dealing in white onions, a rare variety but grown in large quantities in Amravati district. Prices of white onions have gone up by Rs500 (€6.41) per 100 kgs in the last month.

A low output of both red and white onions have spurred the prices. Traders say output of the red variety, which accounts for almost 70% of the country's total produce, is down by 20% while that of white onion has been halved. The latter is largely used in processing industries which dehydrate onion for long-term use. The preserved onion also has major demand in the overseas market. The white onion mainly comes from Bhavnagar district in Gujarat. A fall in produce at Bhavnagar has led to Amravati's gain.

The processing units that mainly depend on Bhavnagar have increased purchases from Vidarbha, said traders in the region.

Last year, the white onion did not fetch more than Rs400 per 100 kgs. This year the rates opened at Rs900 to 1,000 and now have even touched Rs1,600 for the best quality, said Avinash Jastare of M/s LB Company at Amravati. "White onions would not be more than 30% of the total onion crop in the country. The white variety is also grown in Dhule and Nashik but in small quantities," he said.

Meanwhile, the red onions are being sold at Rs800 to 1,300 per 100 kgs in bulk markets. This is an increase in the range of Rs100 to 300  per 100 kgs. Farmers clear the fields of the onion crop during this part of the year, and prepare for the next harvest. The dry spell coupled with excess heat this summer has damaged the crop of red variety too. Farmers are holding on to the produce at their warehouses, and that has led to a jump in prices. The demand from Gulf countries, Sri Lanka and Singapore too has gone up, and the area under cultivation has reduced.


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