Shinde told TOI, “As prices in wholesale markets have fallen drastically this year due to excess intake, we stored the harvest to sell during the upcoming kharif season. However, the heat has spoiled more than 50% of the stored onion. We are forced to sell it now. It is a double loss for us. We have not got the prices we wished for, and also suffered loss of quantity.”
Several farmers in Ambegaon, Junnar, Shirur, Khed and Daund tehsils in the Pune district are facing this conundrum. A kg of onion in the wholesale market is being sold for Rs 4-7, while in retail markets, the kitchen staple is going for Rs10-15 per kg.
Most farmers do not have properly constructed onion storage facilities and rely on makeshift ones. “But these arrangements are not scientifically correct. As a result, the stored harvest does not get the required ventilation. After some days, stored onions get spoiled due to excessive moisture,” said a scientist from the Directorate of Onion and Garlic Research Centre at Rajgurunagar, adding, “Unless farmers construct a proper storage facility, they cannot safely stock their harvest.”
But farmers said they have no capital to do so. “We need at least Rs40,000-50,000 to grow onions on one acre of land. This year, I could not even get 20% of the capital investment back. I do not know how we will manage new crops in the kharif season,” said Kaluram Bhadale, a farmer from Khed.
Akash Bansode, another onion grower from Khed, said,”This year, prices have crashed. I sold onions at Rs3/kg. What returns are we getting? This has been the worst phase for us in this season.”
A section of farmers also stock their harvest for kharif season. “The intake of onion in the wholesale and retail markets reduces drastically in rainy season. That is when we take stored onions to the market. Two years ago, we got a good price for them too. But for the last two years, our plan has gone against us. This year, I lost 70% of stored onions. I will not even get 10% of the capital investment back now,” said Akshay Kolpe, a farmer from Shirur.
Meanwhile, officials from the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) predicted that the rate of the kitchen staple will increase in the next three weeks. “There is a reduction in the arrival of fresh onion harvest. Also, stocked onions are perishing in the heat. We anticipate a demand-supply imbalance in the next three weeks,” said a senior APMC official.
Another APMC official said, “Citizens too have got onions are low rates throughout the summer this year, for Rs10-15 per kg in retail markets or mandis across the city.”