Green Living: Eye-watering onion prices in India

The whole of India is in a furore these days... over onions. Yes, you heard right. A month ago it was the price of cabbage in Korea and now its onions in India. Prices have jumped to 70 ($1.55; £0.99) per kg from 35  last week and in some places it has reached an all time high of 85. Now you may wonder what the fuss is all about - but the onion is a vegetable used so regularly, that people almost don't even account it into weekly purchasing but now suddenly, the whole country is in a tizzy about it. As a basic ingredient for many Indian dishes, the ubiquitous curry included the dramatic increase in price has created mass unrest.

The government has announced a ban on onion export until prices stabilize and about 60 truckloads have been imported from Pakistan to ease the situation. Importers in North India are looking to buy over 1,000 tonnes of onions from Pakistan although they claim that they are not as good as the ones produced in India.

It is only during times like this when consumers are hit hard. It reminds us that our current consumption patterns cannot be supported. The reason for the sudden hike in onion prices is linked to errant rainfall which is again connected to global weather weirding. Indian onion crops have been damaged by unseasonal rains in the bulk producing western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat and in southern states.

The November rains not only destroyed ready stocks of onions but also destroyed the seeds and saplings which might have been used for a February crop. According to some farmers even if exports are curbed, they will not be benefited. They reckon that onion farmers are going to be hard-up until August or September of next year.

The unseasonal rains have caused heavy floods in the Southerly states and have also destroyed a majority of the rice crop ready for harvest in January. It is anticipated that prices of rice will shoot up during this month and thereafter. In a country where 70% of its economy still rests on agriculture which is so dependent on weather, India will be affected if measures are not taken to keep pollution and deforestation under check. Loss of forest cover within the country is also linked to errant monsoons in conjunction with change in global weather patterns.

Food inflation has already caused riots and unrest in many parts of the country. Although it has retreated in the recent months, it still remains at a high of nearly 10% which is a worry for the ruling Congress party ahead of a number of important state elections next year.

Photo Credit: Woman sorting out onions in Siliguri, India. AFP Photos ©