Onion farmers in Maharashtra are facing a severe shortage of summer onion seeds, reports Financial Express. With the monsoons in full swing, sowing has picked up pace and farmers are being forced to purchase seeds at double prices due to the shortage.
Packets of onion seed that were priced at Rs 1,500 per kg same time last year are now being sold at Rs 3,000-3,500 per kg, senior officials of the state agricultural department said to the Financial Express. The shortage is to the extent of 40-45 per cent, officials at the National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF) revealed. The Nashik branch of NHRDF also put a cap on the sale of seeds at 2 kg per farmer.
PK Gupta, acting director of the NHRDF, told Financial Express that farmers had ended up selling onion seeds during November-December at Rs 100-120 per kg when prices were high due to short supply. They were uncertain of getting a good price later and therefore offloaded their stocks.
According to data received by the NHRDF, around 35,000 hectare come under summer onion cultivation and 40 per cent of this crop has been destroyed due to heavy rains. The summer onion crop has a shelf life of six months and is stored by farmers in anticipation of better prices.
The seed production programme for the summer crop is usually undertaken in November or October. Last year, extended monsoons damaged nurseries. Moreover, farmers who usually store seeds for the next season were forced to go in for re-sowing operations due to this rain. More importantly, onion prices were very high during October and November last year and farmers ended up selling their stocks since they were getting good prices.
Private companies account for 30-35 per cent of the seed availability while farmers account for the remaining 70 per cent seed supply. Of the organised sector, NHRDF accounts for 80 per cent of the supply. Around 12,000 tonne of onion seeds are required every year for sowing operations. Of this, the rabi crop accounts for 7,200 tonne and the remaining 4,800 tonne is used for the kharif crop, according to NHRDF estimates.