Not just cutting, now even buying onions is proving to be a tear-jerking and a stinging experience. Barely 15 days ago a kg of onions in the city would have cost anything between `21-24 depending on where you bought them from. Since then prices have more than doubled, costing nearly `40. Even State-run Rythu bazaars are selling the essential veggie between `34-36.
India is not just the biggest market for onions, where its presence is essential in every meal – from gravy to garnish, salads to dip, sometimes pureed, at times sautéed, found in vegetables to most important ingredient of non-vegetarian preparations – it also has the ability to topple governments. But since it is not election time, it is only the common man who is seen tearing up as his monthly budget goes for a toss.
What do we eat?
Vaishnavi Iyer who belongs to a family of eight members is one such irate consumer. “Cooking without onions, is that even possible?” asks the housewife from West Marredpally. “With prices of essential commodities rising – pulses, LPG, vegetables, fuel, rail fares and now onions – I don’t know how to plan my budget,” she rues.
Jahan Begum, a resident of Toli Chowki, works as a cook in three houses and takes home `7,000 per month. The mother of three school-going children feels that with the rise in onion prices feeding three meals to her children is going to become a task.
“The government is not doing anything for the poor. If the prices of items like onions also increase, what will people like us eat? When prices of pulses increased, I started making vegetable gravy dishes. And now that onion has also become a luxury, are we to satiate our hunger with water and roti?” she questions.
Even fast-food joints and small eateries have begun their cost-cutting measures and have stopped serving the veggie as an accompaniment.
Balaraju, who runs a chinese fast food joint in Kukatpally says not giving onions along with chowmein is affecting his business. “Customers tell me ‘Anna aj maza nahi aaya’. But I can’t afford to spend half of what I earn on buying onions,” he quips as he tosses noodles and scrambled egg in a pan.
G Lakshmi Bai, additional director of Agriculture Marketing however says the spiraling onion prices through a perennial issue, is a temporary one.
“This is a lean season that will last only till the kharif crops come in September,” she says adding that recent rains had damaged the last crop which resulted in shortage of onions. The official however agreed that the prices this year are higher as compared to last year.
And will the prices cross `40 mark?
“In Rythu Bazars we are selling onions for not anything more that `36. Retailers could be selling it at a higher rate, but not us. And even if prices increase, it will not rise more than a rupee,” she says.
The official also adds that to match demand and supply, onions are being purchased at wholesale rate from Hyderabad and Nasik. 36 outlets have also been set up throughout the city that are selling it between `25 - `30 per kg.
Taking it in stride
Denizens however does not seem to share this optimism. “In India prices only go up, they never come down,” says Vaishnavi.
Anand Kumar, a web designer, agrees and feels that one has to take the hike in stride – and since no amount of crying will help bring down the prices, the only positive thing to do is make a joke about it. “This has been a interesting week – gold prices tumbled down and on other side onion prices rose – I hope government understands there is a difference between luxury and need.”
Meanwhile, those who look after kitchens and are responsible for plating meals on table, have already started looking for alternatives to onions. “Substituting onions is not really possible but one can definitely reduce its consumption by using more of bottle gourd and cabbage along with a bit of onion while making gravy. Most non-vegetarian dishes require onion so until the prices stabilise I have replaced gravies with kebabs and other dry dishes,” Ghazala Syed, a homemaker says.