Traders attribute slump to heavy arrivals, poor quality of produce due to alternating rains, fog

A large number of farmers in Tiruchi and Perambalur districts have been hit hard by a steep fall in the price of small onions.

While Perambalur is the leading producer of onions in the State, with the bulbs being raised in an estimated 8,000 hectares, Tiruchi district accounts for about 4,340 hectares this year. Small onion is a widely raised crop across Perambalur district and in Tiruchi district, the crop is widely raised in Thuraiyur, Uppilliyapuram, Thathaiyengarpet, parts of Lalgudi, Pullampadi and Manachanallur areas.

Though the retail prices of onions hover in the range of Rs.15 to Rs.20 a kg in the retail market in the region, farmers say that they get just Rs.5 a kg.

In some places, the price has slumped to as low as Rs.3 a kg. Last year, most farmers were able to get Rs.20 to 25 a kg. Farmers say that they could break even only if they get at least Rs.20 a kg.

Farmers say they are sustaining huge and unbearable losses as cultivation cost has also increased.

Several farmers, who have opted to store the bulbs waiting for better prices, are at their wits end now as there is no improvement in the situation.

“The current rate offered by traders will not even meet the cost of seeds, which we have purchased at Rs.35 a kg. On an average, farmers incur at least Rs.30,000 an acre for cultivating the bulbs,” says R.Manickam, a farmer of P.K.Agaram.

Mr.Manickam had raised small onions in two acres and had stored the produce waiting for the price to appreciate for the past four months.

But most farmers, using traditional methods, could store the produce for a maximum of four months after which the bulbs would rot. Even this requires constant maintenance and proper care, says P.Ayyakannu, state vice president, Bharathiya Kisan Sangam.

Traders in Tiruchi, one of the major wholesale onion markets in the State, attribute the slump to heavy arrivals from the State and also to the poor quality of the produce owing to alternating rains and fog.

“The samples sent by us are being rejected for want of quality and there is no export demand for the onions of the available quality in the market,” says A.Thangaraj, general secretary, Tiruchi District Onion Commission Mandi Traders Association. Mr.Thangaraj, who concedes that farmers were sustaining huge losses, said the price of small onions at the Tiruchi wholesale market hovered between Rs.5 to 12 a kg on Wednesday. Describing the situation as alarming, R.Raja Chidambaram, general secretary, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam, called for the immediate intervention of State government to save the farmers. The government, he said, should fix the procurement price of the onions at Rs.2,000 a quintal, he demanded. Farmers and traders representatives regret that political leaders who raise a hue and cry whenever there is a rise in the price of onions remain silent now when the prices have crashed.