Onion becoming increasingly unaffordable

Choki Wangmo

Never in her 15 years as a vegetable dealer did Sangay Bhuti see the price of onion go up so high. Price rise have hit the consumers, not least those low-income bracket.

The price of a kilogram of onion today has almost quadrupled at the Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu. In the last two months, the price of the vegetable has skyrocket to Nu 140.

Onion has become an essential vegetable in Bhutanese cooking.

Sangay Bhuti said rising price of the bulb led to drastic drop in demand. This, she said, affected her business. “There is no return considering transportation and packaging costs.”

Sangay Bhuti said that she used to sell about four bags of onions (weighing 50kg each). After the price rise, she has been able to sell only about two bags of onions.

A wholesale onion trader, Phuntsho Dawa, said wholesale rates ranged between Nu 98 and 100 today.

He imports about 15,000kg vegetables in a week, about 15 jumbo truckloads of vegetables.

Customers said price rise was bizarre and the authorities concerned should look into the causes and methods to make Bhutan onion-sufficient.

“We have to import onions because we do not grow enough for our own needs,” Kinzang, a customer, said.

The office of consumer protection under economic affairs ministry is yet to study the impact of the price rise on consumers. 

Efforts to grow onions in the south of the country have not been successful. Demand for the vegetable far outweighs production.

Director of agriculture department, Kinlay Tshering, said that large-scale onion production did not pick up because the it had longer growing period and farmers had no patience.

It takes about nine months for onion to grow and mature.

Indian media have reported that high moisture in fields stunted onion  growth of the bulbs, reducing the yield by up to 40 percent since September this year.

Onions are grown in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana.

“Excess rainfall in Maharashtra, the top onion producing state in India, destroyed the crops,” a media source said.

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