As onion prices soar across the country, the vegetable has become a nearly unaffordable commodity.

From tiffin centres to the supply chain Hyderabad in tears over onion prices
news Thursday, December 05, 2019 - 19:47

At Lakshmi’s Tiffin centre at SR Nagar in Hyderabad, the classic onion dosa and onion uttapam are both off the menu. With onion prices ranging anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 160 per kilogram in several parts of Hyderabad, the vegetable has become a nearly unaffordable commodity. And everyone — from tiffin centres to pushcart vegetable sellers and distributors — is feeling the pinch.

“We don’t buy from the market anymore. They were selling for Rs 100 a kilogram a week back, now a kilogram is priced between Rs 130 and Rs 150. The rates are changing every day. We can’t afford to buy and stock a quintal of onions anymore,” says Lakshmi, who now sources onions for cooking sambar from a pushcart vendor.

“I get it for Rs 100 a kilogram but these are very small onions. They are not good in quality and we buy only what is required. We stopped making onion dosas and uttapams as the small onions are not suitable for it,” she adds.

Another retail store owner told TNM that half the stock he receives for sale at his kirana store is rotten.

"I buy from wholesalers, but half of the onions are rotten. I sit and separate the good ones and bad ones. From among the bad ones, I use the good parts of the onions for cooking at home. We have started doing that, what else to do?” says Sriramulu*, who owns a shop near the Telangana Chief Minister's camp office.

The price of onions at Kukatpally and Bowenpally Rythu Bazaars in Hyderabad ranged between Rs 150 to Rs 160 a kilogram as of Thursday.

In an effort to alleviate the price burden on the public, the state government has begun supplying 10 quintals to each Rythu Bazar in the city. The state now procures the onions and sells it at a fixed rate of Rs 40 per kilogram. One has to produce an Aadhaar card to avail the onions at Rythu Bazaars, but the availability can vary.

“There is a huge demand for the subsidised onions as the price is low and it gets over really quickly. People then have to buy from traders who are selling at the market rate of Rs 100 or Rs 150 per kilogram depending on the quality of the onions. The ones being sold at Rs 40 per kilogram are small in size and fit for home use. Those who buy onions for hotels and restaurants have to go for the bigger onions, which are costly,” said an official from the Kukatpally Rythu Bazar.

Sairam, who operates his pushcart in and around Ameerpet and Begumpet, has stopped buying higher-grade onions. Until three weeks ago, he would buy onions through auctions from either Bowenpally or Malakpet markets, but these days, he buys lower quality onions for Rs 80 per kilogram, and resells them for Rs 100 a kilogram. “I just don’t have the spending capacity to buy higher quality onions. Even if I buy a quintal of onion from the market for Rs 80 per kilogram, nearly half of it will be rotting as it is old stock. It’s too much work to sit and separate the good ones from the bad,” adds Sairam.

Vishnu Onions is an onion distribution firm at Malakpet market, which buys onions by the truckload from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, and resells them. However, for the past three months, the rate of a truckload of onions being bought through auction ranges between Rs 3,000 to Rs 12,000. Previously, the prices were below Rs 1,000 per quintal.

”There are very few trucks that are coming in from the onion producing states. It’s due to the monsoon,” says owner Vishnu Raj Khanda. The onion distributor is of the view that Hyderabad and other cities in the south will have to endure high onion prices until the end of January next year.

*Names changed

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