Turkish Onions leave Bengaluru Traders in Tears


Vegetable merchants of KR Market have put a stop to the imported Turkish onions in the market from January 14, owing to the steep fall in the price and demand.

Neetu Saini

At Bengaluru’s K R Market, teary-eyed Razir Ahmed was counting the unsold Turkish onions left in his shop. Volatility in the prices of Turkish onions has left many vegetable merchants like Razir in dismay. Prices of ‘desi’ onions have fallen after the Indian market recovers from a month-long onion crisis. 

“We bought 200kgs of onion in bulk for Rs 8000 (forty rupees per kg), but could only sell 60 kgs of them, as there are few takers of Turkish onions. Next day the price of Turkish onion fell to Rs 30 per kg, so we had to bear a loss of Rs 5,600, and in the past one week, the price of imported onions is dipping low,” said Razir Ahmed, a vegetable trader from  YS Agency.

Four out of ten vegetable shops near Kalasipalaya refused to purchase the imported Turkish onions as locals do not buy the imported onions, complaining of unalike taste and pungency.

Sameer Al-Ullah Khan, an exporter and distributor of onions and tomatoes, said, “Due to the sharp fall in the demand of imported onions, retailers and vendors are facing huge loss in their business. As a result, the vendors and merchants have decided not to order Turkish onions anymore.”

Every day thousands of kilograms of Turkish onions arrive in the market. These are brought in from Maharashtra and Delhi, and sold in different parts of Karnataka. The current price of the Turkish onion in the city is Rs 20-25 per kg as against the Indian variety onions which stand at Rs 60 per kg.

“We buy the onions in stock and try to sell them on the same day because the Turkish onions are nowadays in less demand, and the price falls every alternate day, which is a great loss for us,” said Ilyas, vegetable merchant.

Locals’ eyes on stalks

The buzz started as soon as the Turkish onions arrived in the market in the early last year in mid-December amid the soaring price of onion. The large size and reddish colour of these onions turned many heads in the market, but very few actually bought them.

The size of these imported onions is almost four times larger than the normal ones. One Turkish onion weighs around 500 gms whereas the ‘desi’ quality of onion weights 50gms.

“When I first encountered Turkish onion, I was taken aback by the size of it. The reddish colour attracted at first, but only when I used it for cooking, I realised that there’s no pungency of onion, and these onions were tasteless,” said Usha Raman, a regular customer.

Many vegetable traders are also concerned about the durability of these onions in the winter season as the onions demand dry and hot climate to last long.

Hoteliers Rejoice 

But these Turkish onions were a blessing in disguise for the hotels, canteen, and restaurant owners, as they ordered and bought sacks of onions at a much cheaper rate now.

Most of the Turkish onions are purchased by the local restaurants and canteens to cater to the demands of their customers.

“It’s not easy to run a restaurant. With the hike in the prices of onions in the market, it was getting difficult for us to fulfil customers’ demands. After Turkish onion came to the market, we were not concerned at least about the quantity, if not the quality. The government has come to our rescue, by importing onions from abroad,” said Nagesh, a staff of Laxmi Canteen.

Imported onions have failed to impress the locals, but are vastly picked up by the hotel owners in bulk as these onions are reasonable compared to the regular onions says, Vinket G, another vendor at Adithya Seeds.

 “Almost 80 per cent of the Turkish onions from my shop are sold to the hoteliers, and barely 10 per cent is taken by the locals,” he added

Karnataka alone ordered 250 tonnes of onion during the crisis last month. Onion prices have drastically dipped from Rs 150 per kg to Rs 50-60 per kg. January has seen an upward trajectory in the size of the onion being sold in the market after the drop in the prices.

Dr. Dwarakinath, an Agricultural Consultant, proposes that the government must take pragmatic action towards such a crisis. And before ordering tonnes of onion, the Ministry of Agriculture must have opted for a few kilograms as a sample. Now due to the locals’ preference, Turkish onions don’t have many takers in the market.

Government’s bid to bring relief to the citizen by importing 11,000 tonnes of onion from Turkey continue to bother not only the traders in Bengaluru but merchants across India—including merchants from  Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, etc.