Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Mar 26, 2002
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Horticulture/Fruits & Vegetables
Onion growers shed tears in buyers' market
Ch. Prashanth Reddy
HYDERABAD, March 25
PRICES of onions have plunged once again. From a high of Rs 1,300 per quintal in November last year, prices had declined to a low of Rs 115 per quintal last week. At this rate, it is doubtful whether the onion farmer would get back his transportation charges, let alone the cost of production.
A few years ago when onion prices soared, the State Government came to the rescue of the consumers. It had constructed special godowns for storing onions imported from other States in order to stabilise the prices.
The same Chandrababu Naidu Government, however, has not taken any step to help the farmers this time around when the prices have plummeted.
The onion godowns in the agricultural market yards across the State are lying idle. For instance, all the six onion godowns, having a storage capacity of 1,500 tonnes each, at the Kurnool agricultural market yard are currently unutilised.
Similar is the case with onion godowns in the Adoni agricultural market yard. The Adoni Agricultural Market Committee now proposes to convert these godowns into auction platforms.
The Kurnool Agricultural Market Committee Secretary, Mr Sudhakar, told Business Line that the farmers were not coming forward to store their produce in the onion godowns even though he had offered the storage space free of cost.
The reason was simple. The onions produced in Andhra Pradesh had a shelf-life of not more than a week. Besides, the farmers were not confident that the prices would rise in the near future.
Mr Sudhakar said that there was substantial increase in the production of onions in the State this year. Onions were cultivated in new areas such as Vijayawada and Guntur, leading to higher production. Hitherto, Tadepalligudem, Hyderabad and Kurnool used to be the main onion markets in the State.
But if onion prices were to be decided on the principle of supply and demand, any interference by the Government when prices rise will be detrimental to the interests of the farmer.
If the Government had not intervened to stabilise onion prices a few years ago, farmers would have earned a few rupees more than what they actually got.
The additional money earned could have, to some extent, compensated for the losses incurred when the prices declined.
Besides, in a democracy, numbers are very important. There are certainly more onion consumers than onion farmers in the country.
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