Unseasonal rain and hailstorms in the main onion-growing belts of Maharashtra early this year have not only damaged the crop for this season but may also impact sowing for the coming Kharif season.
According to senior officials of the National Horticulture Research and Development Board ( NHRDF), there could be a shortage in the supply of onion seeds for the season.
Last year, the crop was sown across 1.21 million hectares. This year, the sowing area is unlikely to be higher than last year as seed stocks are low. According to traders and officials at the Agriculture Produce Committee, there is a huge demand for seeds since farmers are getting good prices for onions.
Seed rates have doubled from Rs 6,000 per four kg last year to Rs 11,000 per 4 kg now, senior officials said.
“Around 40% of the seed crop has been damaged due to the rains in December last year. Because of the cloudy weather, pollination has also not taken place as required and this has affected the yield which is 4-5% of the total requirement,” RP Gupta, director, NHRDF said. Usually, 80% of the farmers end up preparing for the seeds by themselves, However, this year, their crop was damaged in the rains and therefore they are staring at shortage, he said.
Jai Gopal, director, Directorate of Onion and Garlic Research, Rajgurunagar near Pune, agreed with Gupta, adding that the institute that produces high quality seeds for government institutions and companies has been able to supply only 500 kg of onion seeds as opposed to 800-1000 kg that is supplied every year.
The seed crop has been damaged and is below normal, which means that unlike 150-200 kg that is normally produced per acre, this year the yield was around 100 kg.
Since NHRDF has already expressed its inability to supply the seeds, farmers are looking at other sources to raise seeds. Some of them are turning to other farmers to overcome seed shortage, the official said. Farmers are seeking to sow more this season, as they had recorded good earnings last season, when wholesale markets recorded prices of Rs 40-60 a kg for three-four months.
Nanasaheb Patil, chairman, Lasalgaon Market Committee, one of the main onion hubs in the state, pointed out that of the total of 47,000 odd hectares that sowed onion crop, panchnamas were conducted for 41,000 hectares, which have been directly affected and the remaining area