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Onion saga: Of X'mas gift, imports and promises

Last updated on: December 23, 2010 13:53 IST

Onion saga: Of X'mas gift, imports and promises

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A trader in Jharkand is offering free onions on purchase of tyres while a noted humourist in Punjab plans to give this essential kitchen ingredient as gifts to housewives during Christmas as a way to flag people's mounting concern on skyrocketing onion prices.

While the politically sensitive issue of rising onion prices literally bringing tears across the country, there have been unusual counter protests with Farmers in Hubli staging a 'rasta roko' in front of the office of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee demanding that the prices should not be allowed to fall down.

"We are offering 5 kg onions free on the purchase of a truck tyre and 1 kg on the purchase of a car tyre," Satnam Singh Gambhir, a tyre seller at Kalimati Road in Sakchi in Ranchi said. Gambhir is also the president of All India Sikh Students' Federation of Bihar and Jharkhand.

He said the move was meant to show discontent among people for the extraordinary rise in prices of what is normally one of the cheapest vegetable in the past few days.

Comedian-actor Jaspal Bhatti in his unique satirical style engaged the services of two Santa Claus' to buy onions to give as gifts this Christmas.

"Common man will be much happier getting onions as gifts as the skyrocketing price of the vegetable has made it unaffordable for public," he said in Chandigarh while buying the vegetable along with the Santas at a market.

"Though, of course, we would be able to gift a very small sized onion to only a limited number of families," he said, adding onions would be more welcome than chocolates.

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Image: An activist from India's main opposition BJP, wearing a garland made with onions, shouts slogans.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters.
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Onion prices to fall soon: Sheila Dikshit

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Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said that prices of onion will come down in the next few days as the Centre and Delhi government have taken a series of measures to bring down the rates.

"Both the Centre and Delhi governments have taken a series of measures and the impact has been seen in the wholesale market. We hope the prices will come down very soon," she said.

The prices of onions have soared to Rs 70-80 per kg in retail markets from Rs 35-40 just a few days ago due to shortage on account of damage to crops in Maharashtra, Gujarat and some southern states because of rains. Asked about rising prices of tomatoes which are selling at Rs 40-50 per kg, she said her government will look into the matter and take effective action.

Prices of tomatoes have risen by Rs 15-20 in the last few days. She said the Centre has already banned the export of onions and taken a series of steps which has shown result in the wholesale market.

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Image: A worker packs onion bags at a wholesale vegetable market in Chandigarh.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters.
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Onion prices fall in Nashik

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The Delhi government on Wednesday announced that it will start selling onions in the price range of Rs 39-41 per kg at 480 outlets across the city within two days to insulate people from skyrocketing prices of the commodity.

The combined teams from Enforcement Department, Food and Civil Supplies Department and Development department conducted raids and survey at various places including Azadpur wholesale market yesterday but no evidence of any hoarding has been found, officials said.

A control room has been set up by Food and Supplies department to monitor the rates of onions in wholesale and retail markets of Delhi and to disseminate information to public in this regard.

A toll free number (1800-11-0841) has also been activated so that common people can get proper information about the rates.

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Image: An onion field.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Onion prices fall in Nashik

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Onion prices have started declining in Nashik following the Central government's ban on its export till January 15, sources said.

Onions prices at Major Lasalgaon APMC ranged from Rs 401 to Rs 4,000 per quintal, an average price of Rs 2,400 quintal, while prices at Pimpalgaon Baswant APMC ranged from Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,700 per quintal, an average price of Rs 2,300, Agriculture Produce Market Committees sources said.

In Yeola market, the prices varied from Rs 800 to Rs 3,300 for an average of Rs 2300, the sources added. Onion prices on Monday ranged from Rs 7,100 to Rs 6,299 per quintal.

They have started declining and the situation is likely to improve further in January next month when the red-onion stock will begin to arrive, they said. The Delhi government on Wednesday announced that it will start selling onions in the price range of Rs 39-41 per kg at 480 outlets across the city within two days to insulate people from skyrocketing prices of the commodity.

The combined teams from Enforcement Department, Food and Civil Supplies Department and Development department conducted raids and survey at various places including Azadpur wholesale market yesterday but no evidence of any hoarding has been found, officials said.

A control room has been set up by Food and Supplies department to monitor the rates of onions in wholesale and retail markets of Delhi and to disseminate information to public in this regard.

A toll free number (1800-11-0841) has also been activated so that common people can get proper information about the rates.

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Image: Labourer Shafi Mohammad carries a sack of onions to a stall near a vegetable market in Karachi.
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters.
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Pak traders exporting onions to India despite low production

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Meanwhile, Pakistani traders are exporting onions to India despite a drop in domestic production due to unprecedented floods and a surge in prices in markets across the country, traders said.

The prices of onions have maintained high levels due to crops being affected by the floods, especially in the southern Sindh province, where agricultural lands were devastated by heavy rains and swollen rivers during July-August this year.

The exports began earlier this week after the price of onions registered a sharp rise in India. About 100 trucks carrying thousands of tonnes of onions have been sent through the Wagah land border in Punjab and Khalil Bhatti, a leading exporter in Lahore, said exports to India are likely to continue till January 15.


Image: A boy sells onions in Karachi.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Pakistani onions for you

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"There is no specific agreement with Indian importers on the quantity of onions to be supplied by Pakistan and exporters in Lahore were filling orders as and when they are received from importers. About 400 to 500 tonnes of onions are being sent across the border daily from Wagah at the rate of between Rs 44 and Rs 48 a kg," Bhatti told PTI.

"We are getting supplies from Sindh for both Punjab province and Indian importers," he said.

Due to the floods, onion production in Sindh alone registered a decline of 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes this season, traders at Karachi's main vegetable market said.

The southern province caters for most of Pakistan's requirement of onions during the winter. Pakistan's annual onion yield is estimated at five to six million tonnes.

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Image: Labourers sort onions at a wholesale vegetable market in Siliguri.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters.
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Due to export to India, onion prices rise in Pak too

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Since exports to India began, onion prices in Pakistans retail markets surged from Rs 60 a kg to Rs 70 a kg. However, this is almost half the current price of onions in India.

Exporters have also been buoyed by the Indian governments decision to abolish a 7 per cent custom duty on onion imports to provide relief to people hit hard by a steep rise in the price of onions.

This is the first time in a decade that India has imported onions from Pakistan and Pakistani exporters are hopeful of making good financial gains.

Ironically, the Pakistan government was forced to allow the import of vegetables, including onions, from India earlier this year after the floods caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains devastated thousands of acres of agricultural land.

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Image: A boy picks up tray of onions.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Onion prices hit the roof in the UAE

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India's ban on onion export has had an immediate impact on this essential commodity in the UAE where prices have reached a record high.

As the supply of the highest in demand Indian variety of onion came to a halt, its prices reached Rs 60 per kg compared to the mid-year levels of Rs 20 per kg.

Traders says this is the highest price of onion ever recorded in the UAE. Local retailers and traders say they are stocking up Pakistani onions to meet the demand even though the same is also presently selling for the same price.

According to them, monsoon season generally throws up supply glitches but with the ban now in place till January, the demand for onion is bound to go up leading to spiralling prices.

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Image: Onion prices rise.

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Housewives stocking up on onions

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Housewives have reportedly been buying in bulk to ensure their delicacies do not suffer from a lack of onions. Onion prices have, however, been going up gradually since July and August when the prices were stable.

But between September and November it crossed Rs 30 and reached Rs 45 in subsequent weeks.

Now that Pakistan has reportedly begun exporting onions to India there are chances that their procurement will also become costlier for UAE traders.

Besides Pakistani, Egyptian variety of onions is also proving to be an option for buyers.


Photographs: Reuters
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