The countrys onion output is likely to dip by over 12% to 10.5 million tonnes in the 2010-11 crop year due to untimely and erratic rains last year, a top official said. India produced 12 million tonnes of onions in the 2009-10 crop year. Onions are grown in three seasons kharif (summer), late kharif and rabi (winter).
We expect onion output to decline by 1.5 million tonnes to 10.5 million tonnes as there has been a significant crop loss of about 35% in the kharif season due to untimely rains, the Nashik-based National Horticulture Research and Development Foundations ( NHRDF )) additional director, Satish Bhonde said. Unseasonal rains in Maharashtra and Karnataka have hit production of the late kharif crop, which are expected to start arriving in the markets from mid-January, he said. Maharashtra and Karnataka are the main onion-producing states in the country, accounting for almost 50% of total production.
Mr Bhonde pointed out that production in the late kharif season is also expected to be slightly lower and yields could fall because farmers are harvesting their onion crops prematurely to profit from the sky-high prices. Onion prices skyrocketed to a peak of `70-85 per kg on December 20, 2010, and continue to sell for around `40-60 per kg in metros across the country.
Asked if the crop losses could be offset by enhanced production in the rabi season, which started in November, 2010, he said: There cannot be much improvement in the rabi sowing as nurseries have been damaged due to recent rains. The success of onion cultivation depends mainly on proper nursery management. Approximately 60% of the countrys onion crop is grown during the rabi season, while the remaining quantum is harvested in the kharif and late kharif seasons.