Higher freight charges and newer certification norms have slowed down onion exports, which has seen average traded price of the bulb fall in wholesale markets in Maharashtra. With rabi and late Kharif onions arriving at the same time, most wholesale markets have reported arrivals of around 20,000-25,000 quintals of onions per day.
Indian onions have some established markets, especially in Middle Eastern countries, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, among others. Exports happen round the year, but the rabi crop — sown in December- January and harvested post-March — comprises majority of the export basked due to lower moisture content and longer shelf life of the bulb.
But this year, exporters fear that chances of the bulb being exported are slim.
Suresh Deshmukh, a commission agent operating out of Dindori wholesale market in Nashik district, cited increased certification needs for traditional markets like Indonesia and United Kingdom as roadblocks for exports to those countries. “Starting this fiscal, these countries have mandated Global Good Agricultural Practices certification for export consignments. This was not necessary for onions and few farms would be eligible for this,” he said.
GAP certificate is given to farms which adhere to certain agricultural practices prescribed by auditing agencies. This includes adhering to a certain schedule for the usage of fertilisers and other inputs, and the certificate is granted after an audit. Vegetable and horticulture crops have mandatory certifications, which has prompted farmers to adopt these agricultural practices. According to Deshmukh and other exporters, onion farmers usually do not adhere to these practices and thus chances of them getting the certificate are slim.
An unusual increase in freight charges and unavailability of containers have also stopped the flow of exports from the country. Deshmukh pointed out how freight charges, which were around Rs 3 per kg a year ago, has since then increased to Rs 6 per kg this year. Due to the global disruption in cargo movements, containers are also hard to get, which has put brakes on exports.
Consequently, wholesale rates of onions in most markets in Nashik district have slumped even as farmers continue to harvest and bring their rabi and late Kharif produce. At Lasalagon’s wholesale market in Niphad taluka, the average traded price of the bulb is now between Rs 775-800 per quintal. Back in February, the price was around Rs 3,358 per quintal.
Suvarna Jagtap, chairman of Lasalgaon’s wholesale market, acknowledged that the present situation was due to lack of exports. ‘If exports pick up, then prices can improve a lot,” she said.