Away from Wheat or Maize (Traditional Crops) switching to a Cash Crops of Onions in Eastern UP

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Visualizing the hard work of the farming community presents the picture of the farmer drenched in the sweat, having plough on the shoulder and growing the traditional crops. It is very difficult to convince the farmer to try the other crop. In the era of climate change and the global warming, switching to new crop is also a big task. Tata Trusts, a century old philanthropic organization of the Tatas has started the movement by convincing the small and marginal farmers in eastern Uttar Pradesh to grow onions in the place of wheat and maize.

Jamsedji Tata, the Founder of the Tata group, gave new meaning to traditional charity — in his words: "There is one kind of charity common enough among us. It is that patchwork philanthropy which clothes the ragged, feeds the poor, and heals the sick. I am far from decrying the noble spirit which seeks to help a poor or suffering fellow being. However, what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, which is one of the greatest service to the country."

Ms Amita Jain, Regional Director of Tata Trusts elaborated the reason of switching to the new crop away from the traditional “Soil and climatic conditions in the region were conducive for onions, but the farmers were not growing them in a big way.” She further added  “As a result, consumers in the region were dependent on onions coming from other parts of the country.”

onion cultivation

“We were able to convince around 8,000 families in 11 eastern UP districts to participate in a pilot programme. This helped us arrange a total of 1,250 acres for onion cultivation,” said  Ms Jain.

As the farmers managed to get a profit of 90,000 per acre, more farmers evinced interest in taking up onion cultivation in the Rabi season.

The handsome returns were mainly because the productivity of the crop was almost double the national average, thanks to the selection of better seed varieties, improved agricultural practices and cheaper but effective storage facilities.

Tata Trusts has drawn up an ambitious plan to develop 14 onion-farming clusters in four identified districts in the region also.

The success attracted the attention of the UP Government, which has decided to support onion farmers under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.


Currently, Maharashtra accounts for 38 percent of onion production in the country while UP’s share is abysmal. As onion is a cash crop and can be stored for a long period of time, it can help farmers to realize better returns.

According to  Ms Jain, the Tata Trusts has drawn up an ambitious plan to develop 14 onion-farming clusters in four identified districts in the region.

“Over the next five years, we hope to bring 40,000 acres of land under onion cultivation,,”  Ms Jain added.

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