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Onion prices rise despite arrival of imported stock

Traders say imports insufficient, crop loss in Andhra Pradesh adds to supply issues

Dilip Kumar Jha  |  Mumbai 

Onion prices shot up by 16 per cent on Monday in major despite confirmation of the commodity’s import from various sources to meet domestic demand. In the benchmark Lasalgaon, Asia’s largest vegetable market, the model price shot up by a staggering 16.5 per cent to Rs 5,300 a quintal. Similarly, the commodity in Mumbai’s wholesale market jumped by 12.50 per cent to Rs 5,400 a quintal.

Traders believe the imported quantity is insufficient, looking at the ensuing festival demand. While around 125 tonnes out of 300 tonnes imported from Egypt was released on Monday, the remaining quantity faced legal hurdles. Importers are already on the way to submitting all papers and clear hurdles for early release.

“It is very difficult to justify the price rise, as the average quantity of release (arrivals) now has been almost in sync with that of a few months ago. This indicates that supply has been adequate from domestic sources,” said R P Gupta, director, National Horticulture Research & Development Foundation (NHRDF). Trade sources believe some truckloads have reached Delhi and a large order placed to import the commodity from Afghanistan. Also, India has placed orders to import from China, Pakistan and Iran.

Traders have received permission to import 24,000 tonnes of onion this year to meet rising demand. National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) had last week floated a tender to import onion from Pakistan, China, Iran and Egypt. PEC Ltd had floated a tender to import of onion early last week.

Private players are also keen to import the commodity to meet domestic demand. A Mumbai-based trader and exporter of onion, however, said that India was facing acute shortage of onion. The new season crop has been delayed, especially from Andhra Pradesh, due to intermittent rainfall. There is talk of crop damage in Andhra Pradesh. Given that the supply remains poor, the price is bound to remain upbeat at least for the next four-six weeks.

Meanwhile, the new season crop has started hitting Karnataka’s In Bangalore, total arrivals were recorded at 12,323 tonnes on Monday as against a mere 3,822 tonnes on Friday. Despite higher arrivals, onion prices remained robust in Bangalore market. Traders are not going to sell onion at lower prices as the landed cost works out higher due to rupee depreciation.

Meanwhile, onion exports from India fell sharply by 81 per cent to 29,247 tonnes in August as compared to the same month a year ago, after the government imposed curbs on the overseas sale. India, the second largest producer of onions in the world after China, is estimated to have harvested 16.6 million tonnes of the staple vegetable last year.

First Published: Mon, September 16 2013. 22:35 IST