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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Even as the State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain and onion traders in unison blame the rain and floods in Maharashtra for the steep rise in prices of the bulb crop, a reality check shows how the prices of locally produced onions in Odisha have been jacked up in the months of August and September by the traders here to mint profit.

Consider this. As per the report of APMCs (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees), the wholesale price of locally produced onions shot up to Rs 4,234.55/quintal in August and maintained the trend in September first week. In fact, the price last year in August-September was Rs 2,543.67/q.

As per sources, the onion production in the State in 2017-18 and 2018-19 crop year had not seen any drastic fall in production. Data shows onion production in Odisha had increased marginally to 3.79 lakh tonne in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

It needs mentioning here that the flash floods in major onion producing districts like Bolangir, Kalahandi etc in August for a week affected the transportation. And speculative traders jumped in to to rake in bucks. While the scenario eased by August 3rd week, the wholesale prices of local onions refused to calm down.

However, consumers in the State didn't feel the pinch much in August as the wholesale prices of onions imported from Maharashtra were ruling at Rs 2,211.51/quintal.

But the floods in Maharashtra in September has badly affected the transportation of the commodity to Odisha. And the wholesale prices of onions imported from Maharashtra shot up to Rs 4,090.74/q in September first week.

On account of the lax monitoring by State Food and Civil Supplies department, the speculative traders have suddenly hiked the wholesale prices of locally produced onions to Rs 4,901.32/quintal in September 2nd week (9-15) and the trend maintained till date.

In contrast, despite hiccup in transportation, the wholesale prices of onion imported from Maharashtra increased to Rs 4,439.53 from September 9.

While the wholesale price of Odisha grown onions was Rs 2,770.27/q in the corresponding period last year, the wholesale price of imported onions quoted Rs 2,198. 39 during the same period last year.

Notably, the wholesale price of Maharashtra-grown onions in Odisha last August (2018) was ruling at Rs 4,439.53. And the reason then was the same - supply disruption due to flood.

However, the contrasting fact last year(2018) was the wholesale price of Odisha grown onions was ruling at Rs 2,200 - Rs 2,700/quintal. The consequence was, the onion-crisis in Odisha didn't turn this scary in 2018.

A comparison of the wholesale prices of locally grown onions of all major onion growing states has been a revelation. With a wholesale rate of Rs 4,901.32/quintal till date, Odisha-grown onion tops as the costliest bulb crop in the country. Even, the wholesale price of onions at Nashik on September 23 was ruling at Rs 4,703. 63.  

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