Telangana will suffer an acute shortage of onions in January if the government does not intervene promptly and import them from countries like Egypt, Turkey and Afghanistan, caution onion traders. Owing to the recent rainfall that lashed the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, onion crops were damaged, forcing the traders to rely on Maharashtra. This has resulted in the price of onions increasing excessively.
Telangana relies majorly on Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool and on Maharashtra for onions. The local production of onions is very less. In Telangana, Mahbubnagar and Medak districts produce most of the onions. In Hyderabad, onions are being sold for between Rs 80 and Rs 100 or more per kg in retail markets depending on their quality. Onions which were sold for Rs 40 per kg a week ago are being sold for Rs 65 per kg even in rythu bazaars (farmers market without the intervention of middlemen).
“There’s a very slim chance of the onion prices decreasing anytime soon. This crisis will continue for the next two months. The Maharashtra onions presently sold in the markets are old batches produced in April and May. There is no fresh stock available. The crops have suffered damage due to the rains. Soon we will run out of the old stock. So, the government has to import onions from Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, etc.,” says T Srikanth, a member of the Telangana Onion Merchants Association.
During the same period two years ago, Hyderabad used to get a shipment of 60,000 packets of onions per day, but now the city is getting only 20,000 packets, Srikanth says. According to him, besides Maharashtra, Telangana depends on onions coming from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka. “Unless the government imports onions, the crisis will only worsen,” he says.
In a bid to steady the prices of onions in wholesale markets, the Union government had imposed a ban on its export earlier in September, through the controversial Essential Commodities (Amendment Ordinance, 2020).
Civil Supplies Chief Rationing Officer B Bala Maya Devi says that the government cannot regulate the prices of onions as there is a shortage of the produce due to the rains. “Usually we depend on Maharashtra during this season for onions, and the produce from Kurnool would come by January. But now due to the rains, the crops in Kurnool have been damaged and the demand for onions from Maharashtra has increased.”
“The traders attribute the increase in price to unavailability of labour, transport costs, etc. We can’t regulate the increasing prices,” the Chief Rationing Officer says.