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This article is more than 1 year old.

Onion prices leave you teary-eyed; but farmers’ pockets are still empty

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Despite the frequent brouhaha on onion prices, the tribal farmers are barely able to manage one and a half meal a day.

Onion prices leave you teary-eyed; but farmers’ pockets are still empty
The people from Korku tribe in Khandwa block of Madhya Pradesh are primarily engaged in the farming of onions. Thousands of Korku families depend solely on onion farming for their livelihood; and despite all this frequent brouhaha on onion prices, these tribal families are barely able to manage one and a half meal a day.
The average landholding of a Korku family is one acre. The average onion yield per acre in this area is 6,500 kg. In the best years, the yield may go up to 8,000 kg per acre. Onion is a 120-130-day crop and needs another 20-25 days for filed preparation and harvesting and post-harvest farm clearance. Usually, 3-4 family members need to work on the crop. The average realisation of onions for farmers in Khandwa block is Rs3/kg. In the best years, it could go up to Rs 8. The average cost of growing, harvesting, packing and transportation of the crop to the nearest wholesale market (Mandi) is approximately Rs1.5/kg.
So in the best of the cases, a four-member Korku family, on average, expects to earn Rs 52,000 {8,000kg @ Rs 6.5 (Rs8-Rs1.5)} for a five-month crop, which comes to Rs 2,600 per person per month. On an average, however, the income of a Korku family per month would be Rs 1,950/month {6500kg @Rs1.5 (Rs3-Rs1.5)}, which comes to less than Rs 500 per person per month. Some families would take a second crop that could be pulses or other vegetables. But in no case, a Korku family manages to earn more than Rs 2000/month, assuming only one crop gets damaged in 5 years.
Both the central and state governments are fully aware of the situation. The Lok Sabha MP from Khandwa, Nand Kumar Singh Chauham, elected for the sixth time in 2019, is a member of the BJP national executive and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare. Chindwara, the constituency of the incumbent chief minister, is also an onion farming area, inhabited by Korku farmers.
With this economics, the entire debate on onion prices looks totally farcical and redundant.
Vijay Kumar Gaba explores the treasure you know as India, and shares his experiences and observations about social, economic and cultural events and conditions. He contributes his pennies to the society as Director, Equal India Foundation.
Read his columns here.
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