Bhopal: A kitchen staple that in the past has shaken governments at the Centre and in the states is making households shed tears this year as well, with retail prices of onions soaring to Rs 80-Rs 90 per kg in a matter of days in Madhya Pradesh.
A prominent grower of the vegetable, MP holds crucial importance where onions are concerned, with supplies from the state having links to several states as well the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh.
Over the last few years, an apparent glut led to onion prices plummeting in MP — the staple commodity was sold in wholesale markets for as low as 50 paise a kg last year.
In sharp contrast to this, prices have remained high this year, with onions selling for Rs 25 to 50 per kg over the last few months. Prices surged ever higher over the last few days, with onions currently being sold at Rs 80-Rs 90 per kg in retail outlets in the state capital of Bhopal.
The prices are peaking in other cities as well.
Excessive rains this year destroyed the onion crop in both MP and Maharashtra, which is another prominent supplier of the commodity, leading to a short supply that pushed up prices, said Rajendra Saini, a wholeseller at the local Karond Mandi.
Saini said onions were selling at Rs 50 per kg in the wholesale market on Thursday, adding the situation would be the same unless supplies improve drastically in the near future.
Saini said the same is the case with other vegetables. Garlic prices have shot up almost five times, selling at Rs 150 a kg in the city. While the price of tomatoes has increased from Rs 25 per kg to Rs 40-Rs 50 per kg over the last few days, potatoes are now selling at Rs 20 per kg as compared to Rs 7 per kg earlier.
Salim Khan, a vegetable vendor from Bittan Market, said most of the vegetables were selling at Rs 10 to Rs 25 last year.
Onion prices are slightly lower in Indore, which is based in the onion-growing region of Malwa and Nimar. Since farmers with inferior quality of tainted onions, fearing rotting, are unable to send their produce long distances, they dump the crops in Indore mandi, said another Indore-based whole-seller Ajay Agarwal.
To prevent rotting, suppliers are buying old stocks of onions and mixing them with the new inferior stock in order to enable the consignments to reach long distances without rotting, he added. Agrawal said onions are selling at Rs 45-Rs 48 per kg in wholesale markets and Rs 60-Rs 70 in retail markets.
“If the weather and supplies improve, only then will the prices of onions and other vegetables cool down,” said Agarwal, blaming the dwindling supplies on heavy rainfall. MP has witnessed 148% of the normal rate of rainfall this year, with the agricultural-rich Malwa-Nimar regions primarily bearing the brunt of the rain fury.
Most traders believe the prices will reduce once the supplies improve and fresh stocks hit the market, which could take within a fortnight to a month.