THE GREAT ONION CRISIS.. Rain and floods did it; onion stocks arriving from abroad by January, says Centre

IMAGE CREDIT … NewsLive TV
NEWS ONION PRICES
NEW DELHI : India’s rampant onion crisis, caused out of sudden price spiral, may finally be running out of steam as fresh supplies of the pungent vegetable are set to hit the market by January.

Prices at one of India’s biggest wholesale markets may plunge to about 20-25 rupees per kilogram from mid-January, according to Jaydatta Sitaram Holkar, a director at Agricultural Produce Market Committee, a state-run wholesale market for farm commodities at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra. That’s more than 80 per cent below Tuesday’s record price.

A new onion crop should help ease what has been a catastrophic year for the vegetable in the world’s second-most populous nation. Soaring prices have been blamed for accelerating food inflation and even triggering onion thefts and fist fights.The key ingredient for Indian curries and chutneys is so ubiquitous that economists are keeping a close eye on prices for signs of when the central bank may cut rates.

The country usually produces more onions than it needs. But this year, heavy rain and floods damaged stockpiles as well as the monsoon crop in the main growing areas, according to Siraj Hussain, a visiting senior fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi. The government sought to control prices by banning exports, restricting hoarding and increasing imports, yet the rally continued with shipments from overseas expected shortly.

Wholesale prices surged to a record 111 rupees per kg on December 17, according to Narendra Savaliram Wadhavane, a secretary at the state-run wholesale market. Retail prices were at Rs 150 plus in many markets. Average wholesale prices are still about 80 rupees per kg, compared with about 15 rupees in June and July.

Hussain, who is also a former agriculture secretary, warned that the government’s decision to limit onion stockpiles could hurt farmers when prices come down again as they’ll be forced to sell despite poor profit margins. Prices are historically volatile, sinking to as low as 0.5 to 1 rupee per kg toward the end of 2018.—BLOOMBERG, IHN-NN

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