Kavita Gupta has stopped eating cashew and raisins so that she can buy onions.
“I love dry fruits. But I have stopped buying these because the price of onions has gone up, and I have to buy onions. It is more important than dry fruits,” said the 38-year-old homemaker from Anisabad.
On Wednesday, Gupta had come to Anta Ghat market to buy vegetables. Included in her grocery list were onions, the rising prices of which are making the residents, shed copious tears.
Homemaker Pushpa Tiwari, 45, said: “Onions used to make us cry in the kitchen when we cut them because of their acidic properties. Now, the vegetable is making us cry in the market because of the high prices.”
Cutting onions usually causes eye irritation because a volatile gas called onion lachrymatory factor is released when amino acid sulfoxides in the vegetables are broken down. When this gas reaches one’s eyes, tear glands produce tears to flush out the irritant. It can be prevented by cutting onions under water.
There is, however, no antidote for the irritation created by the rising prices of the vegetable that is almost a stable ingredient for a large number of north Indian dishes.
In Patna markets, onions come from two sources — Nashik in Maharashtra and local farmers. Over the past month, the price of onions have gone from Rs 55-60 to Rs 70 per kg.
The result: endless suffering for residents.
“As the prices of other vegetables has also shot up, we are in deep trouble,” said homemaker Pushpa.
So why have onions suddenly become dearer?
Bindeshwar Prasad, 60, a retailer at Anta Ghat said: “Rainfall in May affected the local produce. There were three rainy days in May. The standing onion crops were destroyed. Then, in August and early September, the spate in the Ganga also affected the production in the diara of the river. The water entered the fields and destroyed the crops growing there.”
He added: “As the demand is far more than supply, the prices of onions have shot up.”
Onions are produced in Patna at Sampatchak, Chandmari, Parsa, Punpun, Fatuha and Jalla in Patna City.
The shortage of local supply is not the only reason for the prices rise claim wholesalers.
Sujeet Kumar, a wholesaler of Mithapur Mandi, said: “To claim that the shortage in the local supply is the only reason for the increasing price of onions would be wrong. Only 20 per cent of the demand for onions in Patna markets is satisfied by the local produce. The rest comes from Nashik.”
He added that the supply from the town in Maharashtra had also slowed down.
“Patna requires around 100 tonnes of onions every day. Around 80 tonnes come from Nashik. But for the past few weeks, it has been supplying only 60 tonnes per day. If Nashik resumes its regular supply, all the problems would be solved.”
The slow supply from Nashik also should not have affected the prices so severely, said Sujeet.
“So far as I know, only 20 per cent of the local supply has been hit by the spate in the Ganga. Local farmers are keeping the supply low in order to make maximum profit,” he said, adding: “Most of them (farmers) still have at least 10 per cent of their produce in their store. They are releasing it into the market slowly after judging how much profit they can get from it. They are trying to take advantage of the crisis.”
A comparative study of the prices of onions from Nashik and Patna revealed a startling disparity. While the wholesale price of Nashik onions was Rs 65 per kg, the bulk cost of local produce was Rs 52-58 per kg. But the price of both the varieties of onions in the retail market was Rs 70 per kg.
Wholesaler Sujeet said: “Retailers are taking advantage of the situation. They are not selling local onions at a lower price.”
So is the price of onions going to rise or fall? “There wasn’t much demand for Nashik onions from Hyderabad today (Wednesday). The local production in the Andhra Pradesh capital was also hit because of rain. Now, the demand seems to be going down again. If this trend continues, the price of onions in Patna can be expected to come down to Rs 60 per kg,” said Sujeet.
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