Pricey onions mean more tears for businesses, public
By Anupriya Kumar and Arnika Thakur
Onion prices recently reached 100 rupees per kilogram ($1.62) in some parts of New Delhi. It is hard to emphasize enough how prices like that are hurting businesses and the public. Onions are one of India’s staples, and people consume 15 million tonnes of them a year. Now, many people can’t afford to buy as many as they need – or any at all.
The government’s efforts to ease the price, which has quadrupled in some cities in the past three months, are unlikely to succeed. Heavy rains have reduced crop yields and delayed harvesting. Now, the average price of onions in India is 83 rupees per kilo, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said in an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday.
Here’s how the people are reacting to the “onion crisis”. (We have edited responses for clarity)
Surendra Anand, Anand Restaurant, New Delhi
Onions used to be about 15 rupees a kilo, they are 70 to 80 rupees now. They are expensive, but we can’t stop using them. We need onions to make gravy, and we can’t charge the customers for that. We are not reducing our usage, but it is affecting our margins.
Dipti Chandra, Ghaziabad
Yes, definitely it has hit our consumption. The raised prices have affected our monthly budget significantly. So we now try and add fewer onions to vegetables, and also prepare dishes with far less curry content.
Ommati, garland maker, New Delhi
We used to buy about a kilo every week earlier, now we can’t buy anything more than half a kilo for a week. The rise in price has definitely affected consumption.
Geeta Kathuria, Noida
Earlier I asked my house help to chop onions for salads almost every day, but not anymore. That happens much less now. I think we have become more careful as far as adding onions to food items is concerned.
Pappu, roadside tattoo maker, New Delhi
One is forced to reduce consumption. Earlier too we didn’t buy a lot of it, but now our expenditure on onions has come down even more. We have to carefully manage expenses now; otherwise, how do you run a household? These days we buy about half a kilo of onions that we have to eat for at least 10 days
Lakhan, cobbler, New Delhi
We don’t eat onions anymore. We haven’t had any for at least 1-1/2 to two months now. Earlier, we could buy about 2 – 2.5 kilos a week, now that can’t happen. What we earn isn’t enough anyway. Now prices are so high, it is even more difficult than earlier.
Maya, maid, Noida
We don’t buy onions, they are too expensive. My children can’t even tell the difference, so they don’t mind it, but other people in the family miss the taste. The consumption was never too much, but now it’s impossible to even think of it. Only the rich can have good food now.
Ashu, manager, Gupta Restaurant, New Delhi
We will not raise the prices, they are fixed. We can’t transfer the cost to the customer so it only affects us. We can’t raise our prices suddenly, because when the market goes down, we won’t decrease our prices, it can’t work like that. It is not such a big issue. We buy onions for about 1,000 rupees every day, so it could mean as much as 20,000-30,000 rupees in a month. We have to bear the cost.
Vivek Agarwal, Noida
I live with flatmates. We haven’t bought any onions for the past two weeks in the hope that the prices would go down. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t buy such terribly overpriced onions. In fact we eat outside more now because it actually causes less heartache than to spend so much on onions.
Riyaz, roadside rolls vendor, Noida
Our earnings aren’t as much as earlier, because raw material is so expensive. You can’t save anything. We haven’t increased the price of our product, but what we do not add as much onion (to our rolls) as we used to earlier. See the price of cabbage is around 40 rupees and onions come for around 70-80 rupees. So onion is twice as expensive as cabbage. So each roll has that much more cabbage than onions now.
Mahesh, roadside chaat vendor, Noida
No, it hasn’t made any difference. We add the same amount of onions as we always do.
(Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan, editing by Robert MacMillan; You can follow Anupriya on Twitter @anupriyakumar, Arnika @arnikathakur and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)