Onions from glut to shortage

Onions, no doubt add taste and flavour to our cuisine but it is not also indispensible to the extent of not braving a temporary shortage for a month or two and instead resort to panic buying and hoarding too. Only until two to three months back , the onions were being sold at Rs. 30 a Kg which has shot up to Rs. 80 to 90 a Kg bringing more tears in eyes than added taste in the recipes . This stuff has the history of increase in prices during August- October period. This bulb vegetable has over the years assumed political significance as well as peculiar importance but in pungent form and has the “distinction” of having been responsible for bringing down the Government in 1998 in Delhi. It is also a fact that onion production during the last decade has gone up by 69 percent and acreage too has gone up by 53 percent. We have experienced series of glut of onion production and consequently exported it to other countries. Whatever the reasons, the demand remaining inelastic for it , slight shortage disturbs the entire equilibrium and huge variation in prices takes place even if for a very limited period. The Government agreeably should have sensed it before it started getting virtually out of control, of course, its exports are banned for the time being, instead 1.5 lakh metric ton onion is being imported to tide over the shortage.
Having said that, we know unseasonal rains and floods not only damaged harvested onion crops but the same in most of the cases could not be shifted away from heavily wet fields. Maharashra, Karnataka and Telangana , the largest onion producing states witnessed fields either full of standing crop or harvested inundated resulting in not only extensive damage to the harvest but inability to move them to markets. About Maharashtra , we know about the devastating effect the unseasonal rains had on the crops damaging more than one third. Lasangaon in Nasik Maharashtra , the worst affected has been the trend setter of onion prices in the country. Similarly, in other two states the rainfall in the peak season was 65 percent more than usual. Since fresh arrivals from Rajasthan have started reaching Delhi and other NCR areas estimated at more than 1000 tons on daily basis, slightly more than the daily requirement of the entire NCR area and other cities , prices instead of getting stabilised have not shown the desired results suspecting there to be hoarding in significant measure hence Central Government asking the states to act against onion hoarders .
While cracking down on those traders who indulge in hoarding for profiteering in an undue manner , it is the duty of the consumers as well to slice the daily requirement so that cumulatively demand for it gets subdued and prices fall. This time otherwise is ideal for hoarding as winter season being that of favourable nature for it , (de)hoarding measures become imperative which include conventional legal measures , imports, rationing , setting up of fair price shops etc but importantly, the trend and the behaviour of the consumers too matters a lot. If even at Rs.80 to 90 a Kg the stuff can be purchased with no decline in demand , it means the higher prices were not in fact affecting it and the stuff could be managed or afforded to be purchased with the same gusto.
It is imperative to tide over this sort of a mess of shortage of temporary nature by taking on the hoarders across the country and at the same time, arrangements must be made for creation of buffer stocks and also fixing limits for holding onion stocks. The Government , in short , must learn from repeated trend of market lessons of onions and arrange “reining in” onions instead of the obverse