Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The price of onion has skyrocketed in Odisha affecting the budget of the common man severely. Onion is currently priced at Rs 70 per kg in the State pinching the pockets of consumers.

Though many market experts are of the opinion that the price of onion has witnessed a surge in the State due to a lack of supply from Nashik in Maharashtra, it is presenting a stark irony in Odisha which witnessed a bumper production and then saw distress sale by farmers not so long back. 

While several farmers in Bolangir and Gajapati districts sold onions at Rs 4-5 per kg a few months back, they are now forced to buy them at Rs 60-70 per kg for their own consumption. All of them are baffled by the sudden spurt in the price of the essential food item.

“We worked very hard and had a good harvest of onions this year. We sold onions at Rs 4-5 per kg a few months back. However, it is hurting us a lot as we are now forced to buy the essential food item at Rs 60-70 per kg from the market for our own consumption,” rued Bhimasena Bhoi, an onion farmer in Bolangir.

As per reports, the onion farmers in the State are forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices due to a lack of cold storage facilities. However, they are later forced to buy the essential food item at exorbitant prices for their own consumption.

Take the case of Bolangir district where farmers see bumper yields in onions every year. Titlagarh, Tureikela, Bangomunda and Muribahal areas in the district are famous for onion cultivation. However, despite bumper production, onion has brought tears in the eyes of the farmers in the area.

“Despite having good production, we are forced to sell onions at throwaway prices every year due to the lack of cold storage facilities in our area,” said Bhimasena.

As per the Horticulture Department, onion is cultivated in around 300 hectares of land in the district and more than 30,000 metric ton of onion is produced every year.

However, as per the farmers in the district, there are no proper storage facilities. As many as four storage facilities for onion were set up in the district in the past following the Nashik model. However, three of those facilities are now lying defunct due to a lack of proper attention and maintenance. Even one of those storage facilities at Muribahal has been locked for many years.

Taking advantage of the situation, some black marketers and hoarders used to procure onions from the local farmers at Rs 4-5 per kg and later sell them in the market at exorbitant prices.

“Though we have a storage facility for onions in our locality, it has been lying defunct for many years. The farmers are suffering because of this as they are resorting to distress sale,” said Sitaram Mahar, a farmer in Muribahal.

However, the authorities of the State government seem to be clueless about the condition of the storage facilities and the ordeal of the farmers.

“The storage facilities should be used properly. We are often making the farmers aware by organising many programmes,” said Prafulla Kumar Bhanja, Deputy Director of Bolangir district Horticulture Department.

The same is the case in the Mohana area of Gajapati district. Due to the absence of proper storage facilities, huge quantities of onion have perished in Balibada, Kampaguda, and many other tribal areas this year.

“We are not able to store onions in our home for longer periods of time as it is a perishable commodity. We request the government to set up cold storage facilities in our area so that the farmers will be able to store onions and get reasonable prices by selling their produce,” said Mangala Gamanga, a farmer from Balibada.