Fall in production of small onions triggers price rise in Tiruchi

Prices of both Bellary and small onions have registered a steep rise in the city market over the past few days, triggered apparently by short supply of small onions.

The price of first-quality small onions has gone up by Rs.20 a kg over the past 10 days and is sold at Rs.70 at the wholesale market in Tiruchi on Tuesday.

The price of Bellary onion has risen by Rs.15 a kg and was currently being sold at Rs.55 a kg. Retail prices of the onions are usually higher by Rs.5 a kg.

Unlike other parts of the country, small onions, known as ‘sambar’ onions, are more widely consumed in Tamil Nadu. But the severe drought condition triggered by monsoon failure last year has caused a sharp fall in the production of small onions in the State .

“With the price of small onions ruling high over the past three months owing to dip in production, many consumers are opting for the bigger Bellary variety. Normally, the demand for small and Bellary varieties used to be in the ratio of 75:25. But the situation has reversed now owing to the rise in the price of small onions.

This has contributed to the rise in the price of Bellary onions too,” says A. Thangaraj, General Secretary, Tiruchi Onion Commission Mandi Traders’ Association.

Significantly, Perambalur and Tiruchi are the major onion producing districts in the State. The crop is raised on over 8,000 hectares in Perambalur district and on about 4,000 hectares in Tiruchi district.

“The lack of rain forced many onion growers to put off cultivation this year in Perambalur district. The rain has been scanty so far this season and has not been adequate to help increase the water table. Since onion is grown only by farmers dependent on borewells in the district, most farmers are still awaiting to take up cultivation. Much would depend on the weather in the coming days,” says R.Raja Chidambaram, State Secretary, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam.

According to Mr.Thangaraj, arrival of small onions has fallen to 75 tonnes a day against the normal average of 300 tonnes a day at the wholesale market in Tiruchi.

“We are getting whatever stocks are available with farmers. Small onion is a 70-day crop and fresh arrivals from Tiruchi and Perambalur districts are expected only by January,” he says.

Notwithstanding the short supply of Bellary onions in the northern parts of the country, wholesale traders in the city say that they were able to procure the normal average of about 250 tonnes a day from Karnataka. However, arrivals from Maharashtra have dried up. “But we do not know how long the supplies from Karnataka will last as production is said to have fallen drastically there too. Given the situation, the prices of both onion varieties are likely to rule high over the next couple of months,” says Mr.Thangaraj. The rise in the prices of most vegetables has left consumers worried. “Even the price of potatoes has gone up. Until some months back, I used to buy vegetables for a week for about Rs.100. But I have to spend more than double the amount now for the same,” observes A.Gowri, a city resident.