The price of onions has gone way too high in Nepali market. The retail price of this vegetable product spiked to Rs 230 per kg on Tuesday, in a sharp jump by Rs 30 per kilo in a single day. Only the affluent may afford to buy onions if the price keeps skyrocketing like this and if the government cannot do anything to control the price. Onion is the basic kitchen commodity for the household. Without it you cannot imagine cooking the delicacies like meat. Over the last two months, however, onion has become so dear to Nepali customers that its sale has gone down and householders are skipping it in their meal. But the more things get expensive the more there is the temptation to consume them—which is why there has been general outcry against price rise of onions.
The reason for the rise in price of onions is an old story though. Neighboring India, wherefrom Nepal imports most of its vegetable products including onion, had poor harvest of this product this year and as a result it banned export of onion. Since Nepal relies on 98 percent of supply of onions from India, its market price was bound to rise after India stopped exporting it. But the government’s response to this crisis has not been encouraging. Instead of reassuring the people that it will work to control the price or it will produce enough onions within the country from this year onward, it has been advising people to stop consumption. This smacks of irresponsible response. This is not the first time that onion prices have gone high in Nepali market. It happens almost every year. And yet instead of finding ways to produce vegetable items that Nepal needs within Nepal, by incentivizing farmers through subsidies or whatever means, we have always looked up to importing them either from India or China.
As a matter of fact, Nepal has failed to become self-reliant on vegetable products. We literally import most vegetables and fruits from India and China, while huge swath of lands in Nepal’s hills and plains remain barren. People are abandoning family fields and migrating to the nearest towns and cities because agriculture has long stopped fulfilling income needs of the people. Yes, part of the reason why commodity goods become so expensive in Nepali market is our market monitoring mechanisms are not functioning enough. If they worked proactively, they would at least be able to prevent unnecessary price hike or artificial shortage. But in the long term, Nepal needs to be able to intensify increase of vegetable production within the country itself. Today it is onion. What if other vegetables like potatoes and garlic also have poor harvest in India? Thus the government should come up with long-term planning to make Nepal self-reliant on vegetables and other agriculture products. We have Ghanashyam Bhusal, who has always advocated for the farmers and people of low income bracket, as the minister of Agriculture and Livestock Development at the moment. People are watching if he can do anything to control onion prices. People are also watching how or whether he will be able to revitalize Nepal’s agriculture sector and make the country self-reliant on agriculture products.