PUNE: Onion prices may again make Indian consumers cry from July as a third of the winter crop rots in Maharashtra cold stores due to intense heat.
Maharashtra is India’s largest onion-growing state and its supply decides prices nationwide.
Preliminary estimates show about 25% of the rabi onion, which is stored for use during the rainy season when there is no fresh onion crop in the country, has rotted due to intense summer heat in the onion-growing states.
The actual of extent of the damage will be seen after surveys by government agencies but it could range between 25% and 35%.
Farmers in Nashik district, the bowl of India’s onion production, are finding onions stored in field storage structures rotten from within. The bulb size in Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra has remained medium due to the scorching heat.
Rajesh Ahire, a farmer from Malegaon taluka in Nashik district, said half of his 300 quintal onion stored in the storage has rotted. Gajendra Pawar from village Bhavur in Satana said he could save only 5 trolleys of onions of the 35 he had produced this year.
Heat has spoiled the garlic produce as well. Over 20% of the garlic crop, which is grown only during the rabi season and is stored by farmers as well as traders, has become unfit for use. Of the estimated garlic production of 10 lakh quintals, almost 2 lakh quintals is feared to be lost.
Despite fresh garlic arrival in the market, the wholesale prices of the commodity are ruling between Rs 60/kg to Rs 100/kg across India and are likely to touch Rs 150/kg in the near future. Garlic is being sold at average Rs 100/kg in the retail markets.
The current onion prices are not high as farmers are getting the output to the market due to fears that the crop may rot. The wholesale onion price in the Lasalgaon market on June 15 was Rs 575/quintal. But the demand and supply situation is likely to become critical during September-October 2010.
The National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF), the national agency for onion, garlic and potato research, is going to undertake field visits to assess the situation. “We had advised farmers to not store inferior quality onion in the storage. We have also warned the exporters about this problem.
Depending upon the extent of damage, the supply situation may become critical during August-September,” said Dr Satish Bhonde, NHRDF additional director. He added that the onion crop is likely to be affected in states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh which suffered intense summer.