The skyrocketing price of shallots and onions is expected to shoot further for at least two more months as most of the crops have been damaged at an early stage following downy mildew pest attack as well the poor nutrient availability in the soil because of the failure of an alternative cultivation practice.
The delta farmers have been widely involved with the cultivation of short-term crops like shallots and onions, and the Perambalur district in the region stands first in the state to satisfy the demand of shallots.
The farmers claimed that only in the Perambalur district shallots are cultivated in an area of 8,200 acres, which is mainly undertaken in more than 15 villages of Perambalur and Alathur blocks. While in Tiruchy district, shallots are cultivated in 6,250 acres in Thuraiyur, Uppiliyapuram, Mannachanallur, T Pettai and Pullambadi blocks, the crop is cultivated at least in 5,000 acres each in the other districts.
Usually, the harvest of shallots is held during November, December and January. The farmers in the region claimed that the yield in the initial stage of November was good and in the subsequent period, the crops have started decaying and in many places the farmers have lost their entire crop.
This, however, was informed to the officials from the Department of Horticulture, who conducted a study and found that the shallots have been affected due to the downy mildew pest that affects the crop from the roots. This apart, the farmers, citing good profit, failed to go for any alternative crop cultivation. This had affected the nutrient content of the soil, especially nitrogen content shortage that affects only the shallot crops.
The effect of poor harvest has already been witnessed in the market and on Sunday, the shallots were sold at Rs 160 per kg in the retail market in Tiruchy and Rs 120 per kg in the wholesale market. The onion has been sold at Rs 120 per kg in the retail market and Rs 80 per kg in the wholesale market.
However, the traders have divided the onion into three qualities which would range between Rs 60 and Rs120. They have claimed that the high price had forced the people to skip buying shallots and onions. “The condition would prevail until the supply of onion gets regular,” claimed P Meganathan, a trader in Vengayamandi (Onion mandi) at Gandhi Market in Tiruchy.
He pointed out that the traders in the region mainly depend on Perambalur farmers, who used to supply shallots and onions, at least 60 per cent of the total requirement. “If they fail to supply us, the price would go up day by day,” Meganathan said.
However, sources said it has been planned to import onion from Maharashtra to Dindigul market from where, it would be supplied across the state, but the price would be based on the arrival of the quantity.
Meanwhile, the officials from the Horticulture Department had traced downy mildew pest, which is caused by the fungus-like organism Peronospora destructor, which infects first the leaves and later the bulbs of small onions, due to humid weather.
The experts who visited the fields have found that the nutrient content in the soil is too low due to the absence of any alternative crop cultivation and so they have recommended to use potash to revive the condition.
With these recommendations, the farmers from Perambalur have commenced planting shallot seeds from Saturday, which is expected to be harvested in the later part of January.