Indian farmer Ranganath Watpade made a killing last year by putting off selling his onions until four months after he harvested them. This year, the same trick has backfired.
The country has produced a record harvest, but many farmers in the onion bowl of India’s western state of Maharashtra have lost a large share of their crop damaged in storage, adding to the country’s inflation woes.
A doubling in retail prices across major cities is especially troubling for staples such as onions, an ingredient that is present in just about every Indian meal.
Unseasonal weather, hoarding and price manipulation have in the past led to dramatic price rises, and the new administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is anxious to avoid the political fallout that has hit other governments over the cost of the food.
Supply shocks like these complicate the government’s task of battling weak growth and inflation. It also underlines the irony of high food costs in India, which after China is the world’s biggest fruit and vegetable producer.
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