KATHMANDU, Nov 27: Onion productivity is declining with each passing year.
According to statistics of Vegetable Development Directorate (VDD), onion productivity declined to 12.03 tons per hectare in 2014/15, down from 12.98 per hectare in 2013-14. It further fell to 11.88 ton per hectare in 2015/16.
The data also shows that onion cultivation area has remained unchanged since 2013. Onion farming is done in 20,000 hectare of land across the country, according to the directorate.
The decline in productivity, as well as cultivation area, goes against the government's plan of increasing agri production for import substitution. As domestic production meets less than 10 percent of the market demand, traders import huge amount of onions from different cities of India every year, according to officials of the directorate.
“We have very limited area for onion production. Cultivation area has remained more or the same, while demand has increased significantly,” Hari Bahadur KC, director of the directorate, told Republica. “Problems like unavailability of quality seeds and saplings, and lack of proper storage facilities are some of the reasons behind drop in onion production.”
The directorate had launched 'Mission Onion' program in Fiscal Year 2007/08 to increase farmer toward onion farming and increasing onion production. The program phased out after four years. But production started falling after the program was phased out.
“The 'Mission Onion' program provided subsidy to farmers involved in onion production. But the subsidy was discontinued after the program phased out. It affected onion production a lot,” Khemraj Joshi, a senior vegetable officer at the directorate, told Republica. “Building storage facilities in different parts of the country for storing onions was one of the important programs of the mission. We also failed to build the facilities due to multiple reasons including reluctance of the private sector.”
Officials involved in the Onion Mission said that the program was yielding positive result before it was discontinued. “The main aim of the program was to decrease import from India and make Nepal self-reliance on onions,” Gopal Shrestha, the erstwhile head of Mission Onion, said. “We were making gradual progress toward meeting the target set by the government. We were giving subsidies to farmers starting from cultivation to harvesting processes. But the sudden phase-out affected production of onion.”
Shrestha also said that they were trying to replicate the model of Nasik of Maharashtra state of India, a pocket area for onion production, to increase onion production and productivity.
Nepal imported 120 million kilograms of onions worth Rs 3.26 billion in Fiscal Year 2015/16.
Onion price increased by as much as Rs 30 per kg in three days. Retail price of onion was Rs 85 per kg on Friday. But it increased to Rs 115 per kg on Sunday. Traders have blamed India's move to curb export of onion by setting minimum support price of US$ 850 per ton for price hike in the domestic market.
The Indian government's minimum support price will stay until December-end. The southern neighbor took the decision after price of onions hit a two-year high in the local market.
Price of onion at Lasalgaon, India's largest wholesale onion market in the western state of Maharashtra, rose to IRs 32 rupees (NRs 51) per kg last week.