Oh dear! Onions sting hard

Citizens concerned about onion prices burning a hole in their pockets can blame the water scarcity in Karnataka for the misery.

The price of onions, sold in the market for Rs 18 to Rs 20 per kg till recently, has now touched Rs 32 to Rs 34 a kg. Residents, reeling from the rise pinch, have been forced to use onions in lesser quantity in dishes.

The price in the retail market has almost doubled in the past week because of the short supply. The rates, varying on the localities of the city, are likely to increase further.

Karnataka usually supplies onions to most of the south Indian states. Because of crop failure in the southern state this season, Nasik has been burdened with the additional task of catering to the need of onion supply to south Indian states as well as to north India. The pressure on the onion supply lines from Nasik in Maharashtra, which caters to markets in Bihar, has increased.

Indu Singh, a resident of Anandpuri, has been forced to compromise on the taste of mutton. "Onion is a very important ingredient to cook non-vegetarian dishes, especially mutton. To rustle up a tasty mutton dish, one has to use a lot of onions. However, onions are very expensive nowadays. I have not stopped cooking mutton entirely but using less onion in the dish has definitely changed its taste."

She added: "Our family is fond of having onion salad during lunch and dinner but now we have been compelled to cut down on that also. We are using radish and carrot in place of onions."

Deficient rainfall during monsoon last year triggered crop failure in Karnataka and its coastal areas. The southern state had to release water from Cauvery to Tamil Nadu, which exerted additional pressure on the state. Sources in Bangalore said there was a shortage of drinking water as well. Most of the onion and rice crop in the state have been severely affected in Karnataka.

The impact was clearly visible across the markets in Patna. Abhay Kumar Singh, a worried resident of Nehru Nagar, said: "Earlier, I used to purchase 5kg onions every week. However, I have been forced to curtail my consumption to merely 2kg now. It is not possible to buy such costly onions. But the main question remains when would the price come down? If the present trend continues, the price would cross Rs 50 a kg soon."

However, the wholesellers termed the price rise a temporary phenomenon and ruled out further increase. Sunil Kumar, an onion wholeseller in the Mithapur market, said: "The high prices of onions would continue for at least another week. At present, the supply is less but we are hoping that it would improve. As many as six trainloads of onions are on way to Bihar and would fulfil the demands of the markets."

Asked about further spiralling of onion prices, Kumar said: "I cannot guarantee anything. It only depends on the Nasik supply. If Nasik grows more onions, then there is no issue. But if it keeps on supplying south Indian states, then there is a problem."

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