Onion jumps to Rs250 per kg, costing the same as chickenThe price of the essential vegetable started rising after India banned exports due to a domestic shortage.
Many grocery shoppers stunned by the price of onion are returning home with chicken meat instead of the indispensable vegetable. After the price of onions jumped Rs50 in one day to hit a new high of Rs250 per kg in the Kathmandu Valley on Tuesday, the vegetable now costs the same as poultry.
Legal imports of onions from India have stopped, and the only supply of the vegetable in the market is smuggled stock, traders said.
A merchant in the Balkhu vegetable and fruit market told the Post that around 40 tonnes of onions were being smuggled into Nepal daily through different points on the leaky border with India. The unnamed seller said that not a sack of onions was available in the market.
Only a few vegetable outlets at Nepal’s largest vegetable market — Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board — have been selling onions for the past weeks.
The price of the essential cooking ingredient started to balloon in mid-September following a shortage in India, a major exporting country. On September 29, India slapped a ban on onion exports to maintain domestic availability. As a result, shortages spilled over Asia, including Nepal. Nepal is fully dependent on imported onion.
In the last fiscal year, Nepal imported onions worth Rs5.62 billion from India. Sunil Shrestha, manager at Chez Caroline Restaurant in Babar Mahal, said they had been buying Indian onions for Rs200 per kg from the wholesale market.
Restaurant and hotels are the largest consumers of onion in the Kathmandu Valley as it is used to flavour almost all dishes.
According to the Economic Times, the ban could be extended to until February as domestic prices in India have risen after the harvest of summer-sown crops was delayed and damaged by untimely November rains.
Binaya Shrestha, deputy director at the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board, said they can’t forecast immediately whether the price will touch Rs300 per kg or more, but the price has been expected to go up further.
“The export of onion from the southern neighbour is banned, and we don’t have enough supply to intervene in the market,” he said, adding that the price could not be controlled.
Shrestha said that the price of Chinese onion had also increased to Rs170 per kg in the wholesale market. The Chinese product costs Rs200 per kg retail. “Since mid-November, onion shipments from China have been increasing. Around 35 tonnes of onion has been imported from the northern neighbour in last three weeks.”
“We had expected prices to come under control after the Chinese shipments arrived, but it hasn’t happened,” said Shrestha.
The country imported onions worth Rs1.3 billion during the first quarter of the current fiscal year beginning mid-July. During the same period in the last fiscal year, onion imports were valued at Rs1.2 billion.
Onions worth Rs 80 million being smuggled to Nepal seized: Media report
The Indian customs department in Bihar's Raxaul has seized 14 trucks of onion, worth Rs80 million (IRs50 million) and arrested the drivers on Thursday night, according to Indian media report.
The report said that it’s one of the biggest seizures of recent time.
According to The New Indian Express, onions were being smuggled from India to Birgunj in Nepal where the price of one kg of onion is sold at more than Rs200 per kg.
The media report confirmed official sources saying that a convoy of 14 trucks were spotted when they were trying to infiltrate Nepal through a Raxaul area without valid documents. The seized onion weighs around 200 tonnes, it said.