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Explained in Graphics: How India's Onion Consumption Saw Six-Fold Increase in Last 56 Years

Image for representation. (Reuters)

Image for representation. (Reuters)

On Wednesday, the Centre relaxed import norms till December 15 to make possible the early shipment of onion to renew the domestic supply and check the retail prices of the key kitchen staple.

Prices of onion have skyrocketed in India owing to excessive rainfall in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where the summer-crop is grown. Notably, India’s primary onion-cultivating states have witnessed around 41% more rainfall than normal since the monsoon season began on June 1, leading to the crops being damaged. However, despite periodic fluctuations in price, onion consumption, per person per year, has steadily climbed from 2.25 kg in 1961 to 14.7 kg in 2017.

India is the world’s largest exporter of onions, a staple of South Asian cooking. Countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia and Sri Lanka are heavily dependent on Indian shipments. On Wednesday, the Centre relaxed import norms till December 15 to make possible the early shipment of onion to renew the domestic supply and check the retail prices of the key kitchen staple. The Union Consumer Affairs Ministry, in a statement, said it will also offload more onion from its buffer stock in the open market to limit price rise. An estimated Kharif crop of 37 lakh tonne is likely to start arriving in the Mandis that will give some relief to the rising prices, it added.

In states like, Madhya Pradesh, along with Maharashtra and Karnataka, which are prominent onion growers, lockdown halted the buying capacity and hindered transportation of the commodity to far off places, leaving farmers in a state of despair. This year, despite a bumper harvest, the onion farmers are aggrieved as prices have slipped below input cost. Notably, till a few days before the nationwide lockdown was imposed, onions were selling at Rs 11-12 per kg in wholesale, but as the curbs came into effect, prices halved in no time, Dilip Patidar, a farmer from Mandsaur, had earlier told News18.

“Supplies from the new crop have been delayed by nearly a month. Prices could remain firm in the short term," Ajit Shah, president of the Mumbai-based Onion Exporters’ Association told news agency Reuters last month. The issue also emerged as a flashpoint between New Delhi and Dhaka after Bangladesh conveyed its “deep concern” over India’s decision to ban the export of onions. However, the Indian government later granted special permission to export 25,000 tonnes of onion to Bangladesh.
first published:October 23, 2020, 14:54 IST