November 13, 2017
Image credit : Illustrative Image
Shallots have almost gone missing from the dishes served in Coimbatore’s restaurants, thanks to the spiralling price.
Customers are forced to search for them in Tamil Nadu’s favourite stew – ‘sambar’ in which shallots play a crucial role to give the smell and taste. Neither the idli/vada sambar offered for breakfast nor the sambar served with steamed rice has any trace of small onions in the last few days.
“I had pongal and sambar for breakfast at the city’s most popular chain of vegetarian hotel located on Mettupalayam road today. Unfortunately, I could find only one piece of small onion in a bowl of sambar. Nevertheless, the price is the same,”a working woman said.
It needs no guessing to find out the reason. The price of one kilogram of shallots has touched Rs 180 on Monday and is expected to shoot in the coming days due to short supply triggered by monsoon rains.
On an average one lorry load of small onions from the MGR Wholesale Market here is supplied to hotels in the city on a daily basis. “There is no drop in the quantity purchased as they stock up fearing further rise in price. But hotels have their own strategy to make up for the cost,” says a wholesale commission merchant who supplies onions to hotels.
According to him, vegetarian hotels use what is called ‘chick bellary onions’ – big onions that are smaller in size and which come from Chickballapur in Karnataka, while non-vegetarian hotels compromise on quantity, for non-veg dishes would lose taste if shallots are not used.
These chick bellary onions cost Rs 40 per kg in the retail market, more or less of the same cost as big onions. Until two months ago, the price of shallots remained at Rs 40/kg, then it doubled, rose to Rs 100 and now it has quadrupled.
“As on today, the wholesale price of shallots is Rs 140/kg and the retail sellers sell them with a profit margin of anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent over and above the wholesale rate,” says S Bashzeer, a wholesale merchant in the MGR wholesale market on Mettupalayam Road in the city.
The city’s shallot needs are met locally. Thondamuthur, Madhampatti and Alandur meet not only Coimbatore’s but also the entire TN’s and Kerala’s requirements.
“Usually, bulbs are planted on 2000 acres in Thondamuthur alone in June every year, but this year due to drought at that time, they were raised only on 1000 acres and harvested after 75 days”says P Eswaramoorthy, a farmer of the region.
If you are so curious to know when the prices will come down, take heart. “It wouldn’t for another 2 months,” Eswaramoorthy says.