Onion dehydration units in the state of Gujarat are on the verge of closure with the hike in prices in the international markets and reduced demand on the domestic front due to leftover stock, adversely hampering the production. Adding to it, the ministry of commerce and industry has reduced the transport assistance to three percent from the earlier seven percent.
In 2016, out of the total production of dehydrated onions (which was approximately 60,000 tonne), 20,000 tonnes were carried forward to the next year. Similarly, 25,000 tonnes out of the total production of 60,000 tonnes in 2017 has been carried forward to the current fiscal year. The piling up of stocks has led to the indirect dampening of the current year’s production.
Evaluating the current scenario, Vitthalbhai Koradiya, former president, All India Dehydration Association (AIDA) said, “Currently, out of 100 onion dehydration units in Mahuva, 60 to 70 units have stopped their operations, and the rest are on the verge of shutting down. This is due to the saddled inventories and also the decrease in export demand. Our business is largely dependent on exports, as we export approximately 85 percent of our entire production.”
“We have raised our concerns at the commerce ministry, requesting them to introduce a minimum export price (MEP) for dehydrated onions and also to remove the export duty levied. But no response has been received even after six months. If no step is taken, the whole onion dehydration industry will drown,” said Koradiya.
The demand for dehydrated vegetables in the domestic market is only about 15-20 percent and is mostly used in the making of seasonings, flavouring chips, etc. The household demand is comparatively very less due to the lack of awareness about dehydrated products.
Prabodh Halde, president, Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India) [AFST (I)], said, “In India, onion is grown in three crop seasons, namely Kharif (harvested in October-November), late Kharif (January-February) and rabi (April–May).”
Explaining how dehydrated vegetables can prove to be used as a perfect substitute (considering the taste, price, and perishability) for vegetables during the off-season when the prices are high, Halde said, “We have to understand the consumer mindset. When fresh vegetables are available, no one will like to go for dehydrated ones.”
“However during the off-season, dehydrated vegetables could be a good option. There are lots of myths about dehydration, of which consumer should be made aware,” he added.