Friday, January 18, 2019


Gujarat onion dehydration units on verge of closure due to price hike
Monday, 26 March, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Shraddha Joshi and Subhashri Iyer, Mumbai
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 per cent from the earlier seven per cent.

In 2016, out of the total production of dehydrated onions (which was approximately 60,000 tonne), 20,000 tonne were carried forward to the next year. Similarly, 25,000 tonne out of the total production of 60,000 tonne 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 per cent 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.

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).”

“The rabi season crop is the largest, accounting for about 60 per cent of the annual production, with kharif and late kharif accounting for about 20 per cent each. The major producing states are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana, which together account for 85 per cent of the total production,” he added.

“Since the rabi crop is the main crop, most of the production takes place during this period, and since the demand for onion is steady, there seems to be excess supply and the price falls,” Halde said.

He added, “When a fresh crop is available in the market, the demand for dehydrated onion is also affected due to economical reasons. It is expected that the demand has reduced to 50 per cent (15,000 metric tonne) over last year, since last year, the export was good and importing countries like Russia, Germany, France and the United States also have sufficient stocks. This has resulted in a low demand for dehydrated onions.”

India, the second largest exporter, contributes approximately 40 per cent of the total global export of dehydrated onions. The United States is the leader, exporting approximately 50 per cent and the remainder is exported by Egypt and China. India exports to major countries, such as Russia, Germany, France and the United States, and the total export goes up to 60,000 metric tonne per year. Our main competitors are China and Egypt, but India has quality and price advantages.

Koradiya stated, “While 10 per cent export duty is levied on dehydrated onions in India, in the United States, Egypt and China, it is duty-free export. This has increased the price of exports, making it difficult for Indian industries to compete in the international market. To add up to this situation, the transport assistance, which was seven per cent earlier, has been reduced to three per cent by the commerce ministry, thus making it more difficult for these exporters.”

The demand for dehydrated vegetables in the domestic market is only about 15-20 per cent, 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.

Offering a contradictory view, a trader from Mahuva informed the despite of the stocked-up inventories and reduction in the demand, these units have kept manufacturing. This has now lead to the closure of many of these units, because now they don’t have enough money for further production.

Out of 100 units, only 15-16 are running currently in Mahuva. In 2016, the onion production was higher than the usual quantity, which led to the piling up of stocks.

Mahuva is the second largest producer of onions and garlic. Therefore, the business is only stipulated to the dehydration of these two crops.

However, for the last few days, even the mandis are shut, as the farmers don’t have buyers for their produce. Therefore, they are not getting the minimum price for their product. Another concern is that, as these stocks are old, the exporters are not getting the desired price.

Some of these manufacturing units directly export dehydrated products. However, some of them sell their products to merchant exporters, who further export these products to the potential buyers. So now, the situation is that even these merchant exporters have inventories stocked up.

India is the major producer of dried and preserved vegetable like preserved onions, cucumber and gherkins, provisionally preserved mushrooms of the gensus agaricus, other mushrooms and truffles, green pepper in brine, dried truffles, asparagus dried, dehydrated garlic powder, dehydrated garlic flakes, garlic dried, potatoes dried, grams, grams dal, onion prepared/preserved, etc.

Many non-traditional vegetables, mainly processed cucumber and gherkins and other vegetables produced like asparagus, celery, bell pepper, sweet corn, green and lime beans and organically-grown vegetables, are also being increasingly exported.

Dehydration industry in India
In India, the dehydrated fruits and vegetable market is a big challenge, since most of the time, fresh fruits and vegetables are available at lower price. However, due to the increase awareness, slowly and slowly this market is also increasing. There is a separate demand for this segment.

Halde said, “The dehydration industry in India is at a nascent stage and a long distance has to be covered. India has good sunshine, and for dehydration processing, it can be utilised effectively.”

“We need to create small farmer base units to process farmers’ goods for value addition. Freeze-drying technology can be adopted to preserve 100 per cent nutrition and ensure that there is no colour loss. Technologies are available and consumer awareness should be increased,” he added.

Explaining how dehydrated vegetables can proved 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.

“With the advancement of technology, the nutritional aspects of the vegetables can be retained, so even dehydrated vegetables can be produced with attractive colour and retention of nutritional aspects,” Halde said.

“In restaurants and hotels, dehydrated vegetables can be used very effectively without any taste or quality issues, but there is a need to create awareness, low-cost options and year-round availability,” he added.
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