Farmers at Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market for onion, went into a panic mode on Wednesday with reports of private traders contracting deals for imports from Egypt in the wake of rising prices.
Although the market remained closed on Wednesday on account of the ‘Maratha Morcha’, the market as well as exporters and private traders were flooded with calls from farmers wanting to confirm if the reports were true. Lasalgaon Onion Traders Association president Nandkumar Daga confirmed the reports regarding imports and said the consignments were expected to arrive in the next 15 days.
Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) chairman Jaydutta Holkar also confirmed the news regarding imports and said that the market committee is in the process of gathering information from traders. “Onion prices had just risen lately and would have remained so for barely a month. There was no urgent need for imports,” he said. The traders have opted for imports in anticipation of a further rise in prices, he said. The impact on the market would be seen in a few days, he said.
As per unconfirmed reports, traders have contracted deals for over 2,000 tonne of onions in the range of Rs 2,000-2,500 per quintal. The landing cost in Mumbai is reported to be around Rs 22 per kg. Wholesale onion prices have touched Rs 30-40 per kg in major cities. On Tuesday. the average wholesale onion price increased by 7.4% to Rs 2,311 per quintal against Rs 2,150 per quintal on Friday.
Interestingly, the average wholesale onion prices have already increased five times in the past two months from Rs 450 per quintal on May 31 to Rs 2,311 per quintal so far.
Last week, onion auctions came to a halt at Lasalgaon after maximum prices suddenly rose to Rs 2,700 per quintal, leading to huge arrivals in the market post noon and a sudden drop in prices to Rs 2100-1,750 per quintal thereafter, leading to unrest among farmers. Auctions had to be halted on Friday as well on heavy arrivals. While maximum prices at Lasalgaon touched Rs 2,400 per quintal on Friday, in other markets maximum prices were trading between Rs 2,400-2,600 per quintal.
Lasalgaon Onion Merchants Association president Nandkumar Daga had earlier pointed out that the flood situation in Gujarat and Rajasthan has shifted demand for onions to Maharashtra. Prices have spurted because of demand from the north and neighbouring states. Industry sources pointed out that there is a demand pressure on Maharashtra from all across the country including West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, among others. Regular demand from Delhi and other regions is likely to continue with the festive season approaching. Onion prices are rising and may continue to be high till November when the next crop arrives, market officials said.
The Madhya Pradesh government recently procured 80 lakh quintals of onions and has already disposed of the stock. Moreover, the flood-like situation in Gujarat, Bihar and Rajasthan has damaged the onion crops there, market sources said. According to trader Manoj Jain, the demand for onions from Nashik, Ahmednagar and Pune has gone up and if prices continue to rise, there could be a possibility of imports by the government to keep prices in check.