NEW DELHI: Onion prices are again making people cry. Only this time, it’s not the consumer but the farmer who is shedding tears.
A bumper production this year in Maharashtra and other states has sent crashing the wholesale prices of onions at vegetable markets across India.
“This is the worst year for onion growers as the prices have fallen to Rs 4-6 a kg from Rs 15-20 a kg. The loss is huge,” lamented Jagmal Kamboj, a farmer of Ratangarh village of Haryana’s Yamunanagar district.
“There are no buyers of onion in the markets of Kurukshetra and most of the farmers are selling onion in villages like vendors at Rs 200 per bag of 50kg,” he added.
Ironically, prices of onions have periodically skyrocketed in the past and often caused distress to consumers and politicians. Abnormally high price of the staple triggered an uproar in the late 1970s and was said to have contributed to the fall of the Charan Singh-led Lok Dal government. In 1998, a similar outcry over rising onion prices hastened the fall of the then BJP government in Delhi.
Earlier this month, a farmer in Pune made headlines after he claimed to have made a net profit of only 1 by selling 950kg of onions in the wholesale market.
Onions are selling for Rs 17-18 a kg in Chandigarh. The prices are far less in places such as Madhya Pradesh, where onions were selling for just 20 paise a kg last month at the Ratlam mandi.
The low prices have landed farmers in debt as they are unable to recover even their input cost. But some farmers say it is the result of an artificially created situation.
“The traders know that farmers have grown the crop on a large scale this year, and now the traders are exploiting the farmers by creating panic and spreading the word that rates have crashed so that farmers sell the produce in distress,” KVS Sidhu, a Patiala farmer, said.
“For the past four years, prices of onion touched triple digits and Rs 40-50 a kg was the average cost. So this year, farmers gave preference to sowing only onion. Hence, farmers themselves are responsible for this situation,” said Hariom Khatik, a retailer of Bittan market in Madhya Pradesh’s Hoshangabad district.
(With inputs from Chandigarh, Karnal, Pune, Chennai and Bhopal)