Just when Indian households were recovering from sky-high onion prices, a new kitchen staple has seen a sharp spike: garlic. The pungent bulb, a crucial ingredient in curries across India, is retailing for around Rs 210 per kg – a more than five-fold increase from Rs 40 per kg last year.
This sudden surge follows delayed harvesting of the vital kharif crop due to an erratic monsoon season, say traders in Mandsaur, India’s garlic hub. The rains disrupted the typical June-July planting of kharif garlic, pushing sowing to August and delaying harvests to January instead of the usual October-November timeframe. As fresh supply has dwindled in the meantime, demand has bitten – hard.
“What we are seeing is clearly demand outpacing supply,” said [NAME], a prominent garlic trader at the Mandsaur wholesale market. Mandsaur is India’s largest wholesale garlic market, much like Lasalgaon for onions. Garlic prices here have skyrocketed from Rs 12 per kg last December and Rs 90 per kg in September to a pungent Rs 155 per kg now. Earlier this month, rates nearly topped Rs 200 per kg before easing slightly in anticipation of the upcoming harvest.
But even the January kharif crop may not bring much relief, traders say. Excess September-October rainfall has affected quality in key garlic-growing states like Madhya Pradesh, which produces up to 20 lakh tonnes of India’s annual garlic output of 30 lakh tonnes. Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are other major growers.
Further, any substantial price cuts may have to wait until the March-April harvest of the rabi crop, planted in November. But depletion of groundwater tables in top producers like Maharashtra and Karnataka casts a shadow on that harvest too.
For now, consumers struggling with onion prices above Rs 50 per kg can perhaps take comfort in one thing – rates at the benchmark Lasalgaon market have cooled nearly 50% in a week to Rs 21.5 per kg, after the Centre banned exports. Still, it may be just a whiff of relief given output worries. Much like garlic, domestic kitchen budgets could continue feeling the sting for some time still.
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