Why India Suddenly Stopped Exporting Onions
The ban was enacted on Sunday and went into effect immediately.
As far as vegetables go, onions are pretty ubiquitous. They’re used in everything from soups and curries to salads and gratins, a foundational flavor for cuisines all around the world. However, earlier this week, one of the world’s largest onion exporters—India—announced that it will be banning onion exports in the midst of a shortage. In other words? Onions can’t leave the country, and vendors also face restrictions on how many onions they can stock at a time in order to prevent hoarding. The Economic Times reports retail traders can only stock up to 100 quintals of onions, while wholesale traders can have 500 quintals. (One quintal equals 100 kilograms, or roughly 220 pounds.)
The shortage was caused by flooding from heavy monsoon rains, which damaged the crops—as a result, prices skyrocketed more than 200 percent last month, according to Bloomberg. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration enacted the export ban in an attempt to curb inflation, and while prices have lowered since its introduction, local farmers have been hurt in the process. They’re getting paid up to 75 percent less for their products in some regions, and have been protesting. It's the latest development in a longstanding dispute between farmers and Modi, per The New York Times.
“The farmer never gets a fair deal,” Krishna Hiraman Rawat, a third-generation farmer, told NYT. “It’s always the middleman, the trader and retailer who is king.”
Since going into effect Sunday, the government says the ban will be in place "until further orders." The effect is being felt outside India, too. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, onion prices have surged so much that some vendors have stopped selling them, making them scarce in marketplaces. And Nepal, which imported 370 million pounds of onions from India last year, is now facing an onion shortage of its own.