Onion prices have doubled across India’s major cities despite a record harvest, reports Reuters, which cites farmers hoarding crops, price manipulation and unseasonal weather for the rise in prices.
Indian onion production is estimated to increase 15 per cent to 19.3m tonnes in the year ending 30 June, which places the country as the second largest producer of onions after China, but according to the news agency, farmers in India's onion-growing Maharashtra region have lost a significant share of their harvest due to damage during storage.
Intense heat and low rainfall have also driven up seed prices and caused a delay in farmers planting new crops, and will likely cause a lower yield on crops already planted.
“Since the crop has been lost and planting has been delayed, supplies will remain tight until December,” director at India’s National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation, Changdev Holkar, told Reuters.
Holkar said onion shortages would further push up prices, especially as demand increases during India’s festival season, from August to November.
Suggestions that importing onions could stabilise prices have been met with criticism by some industry experts who are hesitant to increase India’s reliance on imports. “India is considered to be an exporter. If it starts large-scale imports, the prices will gallop in the world market and imports would be uncompetitive,” said Holkar.
“The only solution is imports, but that can’t be done overnight,” R P Gupta, director of the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation, told the news agency.
The Indian government has raised the minimum export price on onions twice in less than one month, from US$300 per tonne to US$500, in an attempt to stabilise the price of onions in the domestic market.