For many south Indian families, small onions simply do not have an alternative in sambar.
During the last few weeks, the price of these onions has been spiralling, forcing many hotels and large-scale caterers to replace them with big onions and households to cut down on the quantity used.
The wholesale price of small onion was Rs. 75 a kg in the city on Wednesday. The retail price is usually Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 higher.
The local supply of small onion is over and supply from Karnataka is expected in a week, says M. Rajendran, president of Thyagi Kumaran Market Vegetable Merchants’ Association.
Some vegetables such as coriander, ginger, and small onions had registered very high prices this year because of deficient rainfall across the country during the last two seasons.
Coriander prices went up to Rs. 100 a kg and are at Rs. 50 a kg now. In the case of tomato, the prices fluctuate depending on the arrival.
Coimbatore is now getting tomatoes from Agra and Hubli. The price of big onion might go up in the coming weeks as Maharashtra is the major grower and its supply will start only in September.
Production in Tamil Nadu is low this year and Coimbatore will get supplies from Karnataka in August.
Though the prices of vegetables cultivated locally are low, many small retailers who used to sell vegetables on push carts have switched over to fruits.
Even the small shop owners have reduced the volume of daily purchase from the wholesale merchants, he said.
According to C. Durai of Pazhamudir Nilayam, the prices depend on supply and demand. The main reason for the high prices this year is low rainfall.
The prices of some vegetables have dropped during the last few days.
For instance, the retail price of coriander went up to Rs. 125 a kg and has dropped now, that of beans went up to Rs. 120 a kg and has declined now. The demand went up last month because of the wedding season. Though the price of tomato has been fluctuating for the last three years, the price of small onion is very high this year.