It is quite predictable; we are crying tears are dripping down not because we are cutting onion but because we cannot afford it. We eat so many fruits and vegetable and when these items are off season their price soars up but then we do not concern ourselves then why now? Why does this special treatment to onion? Even ‘Mango’ the king of fruit doesn’t get this special attention.
Onion has special place in our culinary and politics. No ‘Tadka’ is complete without onion in it. Not only our curries but our politics get tastier with some input from onions.
How we landed in this soup? (Alas this is Onion Soup which we cannot afford today!!)
The demand of onion is quite predictable. As per a study done by NSSO on “Household Consumption of Various Goods and Services in India” onion is among the most consumed item in Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.(http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/Report_no558_rou68_30june14.pdf) When we have such deep understanding of its demand then what lead to this terrible demand supply gap, we are facing today.
In India we have strong zones of onions which supply throughout the year to different parts of country. India is net exporter of onion as well. According to APEDA India exported onion worth 0.5 Billion to different countries in FY 2018-19. (http://agriexchange.apeda.gov.in/indexp/Product_description_32headChart.aspx?gcode=0201)
And surprising fact is Bangladesh import 30% of India’s total onion export. But in terms of value Bangladesh contribute just 20%. We can conclude that export to Bangladesh is not much profitable as compared to other export destinations.
The great tragedy of this crisis is today we have put an order to import 19,000 tons of Onion. Until the containers are received price of onion in local market will keep achieving new highs. Even the imported amount would not be sufficient to quench our onion thirst. Its still months till few more onion growing cluster start contributing till then we are ‘Ram Bharose’ (Now we are going to build a huge Ram Mandir in Ayodhya so we can rely on Ramji more often)
Summarising: Our demand is quite fixed, we grow in cluster so that we can check how much harvest we will get, and we grow so much that we can export not just to high value market but to Bangladesh where we do not get sufficient value. Still when we have demand at home, we are not able to fulfil it. We are discounting the fact that is Maharashtra and Karnataka unseasonal rains have lead us to this situation.
This bring our attention to the important role of onion in Politics. Every 4-5 years onion price soars and politicians get required ammunition to target their opponents. Sometimes they succeed in bringing down the government.
This Article blaming govt of the rising price of Onion, a genuine ammunition to target government and gaining public sympathy. “Is the Government to blame for skyrocketing prices of onions or are the shortages real?” (https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/19981109-is-the-government-to-blame-for-skyrocketing-prices-of-onions-or-are-the-shortages-real-827753-1998-11-09) Sahib Singh Verma’s Tenure as CM of Delhi was shortened because of Onion and later Sushma Swaraj was appointed CM of Delhi.
Read this article from India Today published on 19 Oct 1999 regarding Onion crisis “As onion prices hit the roof and people across India suffer, govt has no solution” (https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/nation/story/19981019-as-onion-prices-hit-the-roof-and-people-across-india-suffer-govt-has-no-solution-827238-1999-10-19)
If you are aware then election in Delhi is due. Opposition has got the ‘Bhramastra’ to ouster the current government and ride on public outrage to the throne of Delhi. Price of Onion is high throughout the country but in Delhi Opposition is targeting the state-government against the price hike.
Keep your safety belt tight as the way beyond this crisis is full of roller-coaster ride.