With onions selling at a tear-jerking Rs 70 per kg in the retail markets, consumers are making a beeline for wholesale markets to take advantage of wholesale rates for bulk purchases. Traders say the sale of inferior quality onions have increased as people are buying in bulk in anticipation of further rise in prices.
Onion prices have gone up more than threefold in the past fortnight. At wholesale market, good quality onions are going for Rs 60 per kg, while those of inferior quality are available at Rs 40-50 per kg.
"More people are coming to make purchases directly from the wholesale markets while vegetable vendors who are also our customers have been reporting lower sales," wholesale trader Murli Sharma said. While refusing to divulge actual sales figures, he said inferior quality onions are seeing higher demand.
The prices are not expected to fall in the coming weeks with the supply affected due to a fall in production in Maharashtra. Going by past experience, profiteering by the middlemen and hoarding by traders are also not ruled out. Sharma, however, denied there was any hoarding.
"The moisture content at this time of the year is high, so onions can't be stored for a long duration. Prices have gone up due to crop damage in Maharashtra," he said. Wholesale onion prices on Saturday rose to Rs 57 per kg at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra, Asia's biggest onion market, which could further spike retail prices in parts of the country.
Traders say it will take at least three weeks for the prices to come down. Onions are a staple in Indian households and consumers are not happy with the sudden spurt in prices.
"Rise in prices of pulses has already upset the household budget and spiralling onion prices will add to the misery," said Simran Ramani, a housewife.
Onion production in 2014-15 has been estimated at 18.92 million tonnes (MT) compared to previous year's 19.40 MT. Respite from the skyrocketing prices is not expected soon as fresh crop from Maharashtra, Rajasthan and the southern states is expected to hit market by September end.