Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh: A new kind of low-cost onion storage facility, built by 19-year-old farmer Rohit Patel, may eventually come to the rescue of onion farmers across the country.
Onion prices spike in the country every year — since in the absence of abundant storage facilities, the harvest perishes at the onset of monsoon. Lately for almost four months every year, onion has been selling for Rs 60 to 80 a kilo – almost taking the essential pungent vegetable off the table.
For years, Rohit’s family, along with other farmers in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, has been unable to save their onion crop, since proper storage facilities, built mostly by the government, are hard to come by in Madhya Pradesh.
After a harvest, they have often been forced to sell onions for 50 paisa a kilo. But last year, with his new storage, they have made a profit of Rs 5 lakh.
Rohit set up the innovative storage in his own backyard two years ago.
This 600 sq ft structure can store up to 500 quintals of onions. Its base — a wire mesh 6 inches above the ground, cooled by 6 exhaust fans — keeps the onions dry and cool and prevent them from rotting.
Rohit who is doing his graduation in Business Administration from a local college, said he developed the warehouse after four years of research.
“Now we sell onions for Rs 3 a kg and our input cost is Rs 5 a kg. But if we can store it for longer, we will get Rs 15-20 a kg during the monsoon. Last year, we made a profit of Rs 5 lakh,” he said.
This facility cost around Rs 25,000 to build – which is cheaper than storing in commercial storage facilities.
Rohit’s father Chatur Singh Patel said he has always been interested in agriculture. “He had been helping me since he was in Class 7. He is a keen observer and got the idea from the traditional way of storing onion on ground under a ceiling fan,” he said.
His innovation is now attracting farmers from the state and outside and Maharashtra and Rohit is helping them.
“I came to see the storage facility set up by Rohit,” said farmer Inder Patel, who is from the same village. “It is a very good and cost-effective way of storing onions. With Rohit’s help, we will set this up in our village soon.”