India’s onion panic
We onion eaters shudder when we remember the annus horribilis of 2010, when onion prices rose to a monthly average of about Rs 2,400 a quintal (that’s 100 kilograms).
Now, our familiar red allium cepa is lightening our slim purses by 70 rupees for a kilo. Will the rest of 2013 turn out to be another onion-scarce quarter? I should hope not. The chart tells us that the price peak of 2010 accompanied a dreadful shortfall in the supply of the pungent stuff, but surely, the low supply levels of mid-2008 and late 2007 were even more severe, as my chart tells us.
More worrying is the upward flight of that red line in this last month, which is now at or around a level second only to the peak of 2010.
The popular press hasn’t noticed the curious trend (perhaps editors and reporters nowadays must consume far too much pizza, pasta, cola, burgers and so on, untutored in the ways of the jowari roti, the one-half of a juicy red onion, and a handful of ‘lasanyache chutney’, as one says in Marathi, which is the unforgettable district staple of chutney made from ground garlic, red chillies and coconut; more the losers they then.)
Business Today has reported that “industry experts are perplexed by the trend” of the rise in onion prices (what’s their expertise worth I wonder), the Business Line warned that “after racing ahead of the rupee, onion could turn costlier than petrol”, the New Indian Express found Food Minister K V Thomas doing his bit to calm the nation by saying that “there’s no cause for panic”, and the Business Standard’s reporter in Lasalgaon, in the district of Nashik in Maharashtra, which is reckoned to be Asia’s largest onion market, nearly fainted away when the price shot up to Rs 5,300 a quintal.