Sunday, January 30, 2011

All goes to Hell when one member of the "Holy Trinity" is missing!

This isn't a blog entry about religion..........believe it or not, it is about food; more specifically it is about one member of the "holy trinity" of ingredients used in the preparation of Indian dishes....the onion.
Onions have grown scarce in the country....the price of a kilogram of onions has risen almost 70% to 65 rupees per KG.....on par with a liter of petrol and a bottle of beer. This is the first time in India's vast history that all three items used by everyday citizens have reached the same price level.

An onion vendor in the vegetable market in Pune, India

I came to know of this issue a week ago while sightseeing in Pune and I witnessed a peaceful protest by a group of concerned citizens........

Protesting in the streets of Pune, India

The outrage over the price of onions in India is have repercussions almost beyond belief; it is causing political problems for the government......people are finger pointing internally at who is to blame for the increase in prices and it is even causing additional problems with Pakistan......yes, could it be possible that further instability between these two countries over if there weren't enough problems between them already!

The price of onions, petrol and a bottle of beer reach 65 Rs.....first time in India's history
So I started doing research on the lowly onion.......and it's ripe (no pun intended) history!

My history with onions goes back to my childhood while watching my mother and grandmother prepare food for our family in New Orleans, Louisiana;

the onion is a staple in the preparation of many creole and Cajun dishes.....along with two other ingredients.....the bell pepper and celery. The combination of these three ingredients form the "holy trinity" of the food I grew up eating.

An onion and garlic vendor Pune Vegetable Market
Ginger, onion and garlic form the "trinity" of ingredients found in almost every Indian dish that is prepared across this country of 1 billion is also common for the onion to be eaten raw in the form of a salad here in India........the onion is everywhere.

Onions being prepared for dishes served at Kesar Da Dhaba - Amritsar India
INFLAT-onION.......the huge concern in the country currently is how the price of onions is driving inflation in the country......the government of India regulates inflation very carefully and it was already considered to be high at around 8%.........the rise in the onion prices has caused ripple effects on other vegetables as well.....which some speculate is driving the inflation rate to almost 20%......

The onion crisis in India is causing all vegetable prices to increase - Pune, India
It's no wonder that these price hikes are causing citizens to protest in the streets......and is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of everyone (I just couldn't resist writing that).

The Indian government.....more specifically the Minister in charge of Agriculture is in a bit of an "pickle" an effort to reduce the prices and bring them down, he reached out to Pakistan for some immediate help.......importing onions from the north seemed like a good option, until the onions didn't make it.

Pakistan is claiming that the shipment  was stopped at the border and was not allowed in.....while on the Indian side of the border, those in power are claiming that the act was deliberate by Pakistan......meanwhile, the dilemma of the onions remained unsolved...........government officials on both sides started shooting their mouths off causing tensions in Islamabad and Delhi and additional pressures needed to be utilized.

Vegetable market - Pune, India
I read somewhere that the shipment of onions from Pakistan was finally released when Pakistan was threatened by India to withhold the export of the precious Indian tomato! Sounds kind of juvenile to a playground fight where one kid threatens to take home his ball if he doesn't get his way and it spoils playtime for the other kids! "No tomato for you"

The prized India tomato currently being used as a bargaining chip with Pakistan - Pune, India
Prices still haven't come down to their pre-inflationary price as of yet.......despite the shipment......what to do?

So what caused this...............some fungus that hit India's onion growing state of Maharashtra.............the part of India where I am currently visiting. While it was evident that the extended monsoon season was having a negative impact on the onion crop......some one was asleep at the didn't yield the crops they thought they would have..........the scarcity of onions became evident........and farmers started raising prices and the government could do nothing to stop it...............except raid the wholesale onion traders heard me right.........there is a war being waged on the wholesale onion traders by the government of India.........raids are being conducted as the government suspects that onion traders are doing this they are sending out troops and Income Tax officials to determine if this is true.

Troops on a raid ny the Indian Government against Onion Wholesalers - courtesy of google web images
I can't make this stuff up...............can you imagine if the US Government was to conduct raids on farmers and onion traders just because the price of any of the food items we grow in the US went skyrocketing ..........things like this would never happen in the US..............India is simply incredible!


My research also helped me discover some other fun facts about onions that I will share with you that I simply could not weave into the above story......

Both Alexander the Great and General Ulysses S. Grant (U.S.Civil War) refused to move their troops until supplies of onions made it their soldiers. Grant's request was so strong he received them the next day!

The average American consumes about 21lbs of onions in a year..........Libya has the highest per capita consumption with 66.8 lbs of onions per person per year!

Cultivating the onion for consumption dates back to 3500 B.C.........they were also found in the pyramids in Egypt where they were worshiped!

Onions represent the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States. This translates to approximately 370 semi-truck loads of onions used in the United States each day.

National Onion Association

Multiply that times 3 and that is over 1100 semi-truck loads of onions per day for Libya
World onion production is estimated at approximately 105 billion pounds each year. The average annual onion consumption calculates to approximately 13.67 pounds of onions per person across the world.

The National Onion Association estimates fewer than 1,000 growers produce onion from approximately 142,000 acres, producing approximately 6 billion pounds of onions which accounts for 7% of world onion production.

Let's do hope that the onion crisis in India ends........the country has enough problems on their hands. Half of India's population lives on the equivalent of just over $1.00 US dollar per day..........and with prices quadrupling on such an important staple in the common mans diet, it is a recipe for disaster.

It is amazing that a vegetable like the onion could cause so many problems for a country and it's people......but it has........and the people are crying for help!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done Lloyd, this is a good research. So what is the conclution? Is India under war? Or is India an industry to make "Poor People"? Or "Poor Man" is its enemy? Or doesn't India have a governing authority?
But I can say my conclution. "Indians are very FUNNY people." Nothing less or nothing more than that. Please mind it, that is your international STATUS. Doesn't matter who you are from India.