“The food produced by a field of potatoes is… much superior to what is produced by a field of wheat,” wrote Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. But this time I could not see a compelling reason for the move. Now let me bust another myth. They had just started recovering the losses after exports resumed in April. CCI studied major markets of Maharashtra and Karnataka and found that there was no link between my production, arrival in market and my price. Am I the real culprit as it is being made out to be? Onion is not immune to this. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. With arrival of stocks from NAFED, the price crashed to Rs 180-200 per quintal. Or, there is someone or something else playing spoilsport? But Earle has her doubts. Other nations followed suit and by the time of the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s, the potato had become Europe’s food reserve, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO). It was peasants who adapted the potato to Europe, she argues, thus they needed no persuading. Over the next three months, till June, India exported US $198 million worth of onions. But of late, there has been a growing realisation that you have colonised me. There is no record of my geographical origin; despite 50,000 agriculture scientists in India, nobody could trace it. Of the world’s top 20 tuber producers, only three (the United States, Peru and Brazil) are part of its historical range, but every country is creating its own connection to it. I am the victim of my traders who always connive to make the maximum profits while pushing farmers into heavy losses and taxing the consumers. This is to protect my middle-class consumers who form the biggest pie of the vote bank. These wild species might also provide an answer to another pressing issue: changing temperature and rain conditions due to the climate crisis. After all, I am a round-the-year cash earner for them. So I see no reason to ban exports at this point. Even today, its possibilities are endless. Idaho farmers in the US and gnocchi-loving Italians will claim the potato as much as any Peruvian, because its story is not only that of a country or of a region, but an account of how humans have reconfigured their relationship with land and food within a few generations. When it goes up, politicians take drastic steps to tame inflation. Just a century earlier, a potato disease prompted a famine that halved Ireland’s population in a few years, producing a decades-long cascading effect of social and economic turmoil. It empowered the government to regulate the flow and distribution of essential commodities by controlling their trade and storage. And as you read these lines, the world’s leading potato producers today are China, India, Russia and Ukraine, respectively. It had also predicted a surge in price till March this year. In Ireland in particular, tenants rented the land they tilled, so as lords increased their fees, they were forced to produce as much food as possible in the smallest possible area. It was said that these laws would allow free markets for farm produce and enable all to trade without any government restrictions. Ireland’s population was halved in a matter of decades. But my farmers did not gain from the unprece- dented price hike in December 2019. The elites and military strategists of the time noticed this. So it should not have interfered even now, when they were starting to recover the losses. But I could hear clearly what Danve Raosaheb Dadarao, the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, had to say. Few have received the kind of recognition and fondness from humanity like I have. Are these three vegetables, considered important in the Consumer Price Index basket, always responsible for high inflation? A question of measuring arises, Earle admits. The fact is that the factors causing the price rise of onion and the other commodities are the same. Over the week, the Houses swiftly passed three agriculture related bills: other than the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020, they passed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilita tion) Bill to allow intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises or market yards (mandis) of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC); and the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreem ent of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill to provide a framework for farmers to enter into contract farming. All this while I have been hitchhiking with you. From the British Isles, potatoes spread eastwards across peasant fields in Northern Europe, writes Lang: they were found in the Low Countries by 1650, in Germany, Prussia and Poland by 1740 and in Russia by 1840s. In north and west Indian markets, bigger varieties are preferred. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called "The Essential List". Just a century earlier, a potato disease prompted a famine that halved Ireland’s population in a few years, producing a decades … Though he harvested 30,000 kg of onion, heavy rain and fungus spoiled half of it. Day length is very constant across the year in the equatorial region where potatoes first were domesticated, so the potato plant was used to regular days with 12 hours of sunlight, said evolutionary geneticist Hernan A Burbano Roa. Enlightened discussions of “population”, and what its health meant for the power of the state, changed political calculations during the 18th Century, and also the fortunes of the potato. But no one was ready to pick up the stock because of the COVID-19 lockdown. But underground potatoes are well hidden, and you can dig them up one by one, as needed. They found that in some of the months my prices soared despite high arrival of stock. It was sold at a cheaper rate than the produce coming to markets directly from farmers. In his 1957 essay collection Mythologies, the French philosopher and literary critic Roland Barthes called chips (la frite), a food that comes from a crop native to the Americas, “patriotic” and “the alimentary sign of Frenchness”. In the 18th Century, scientists hadn’t agreed on a language for vitamins, proteins and minerals, she said. According to the decadal analysis by IFPRI, onion contributes just 2 per cent to overall food inflation while tomato contributes an insignificant 1 per cent. But in this long journey, you have forgotten my ancestry. If a strong, numerous population was crucial for economic production and military might, the state needed to understand and manage the nutritional components of what people were eating. They say with conti nued exports, mandi price would have reached Rs 7,000- Rs 10,000 per quintal. This would result in huge losses for them. This reduces the price artificially. But the amendment has somehow left me perplexed. Increasingly, several other factors are trying to distort my image. On the contrary, the situation would have helped farmers. Now, my cultivators are angry. It is said that the government suffered a loss of Rs 200 crore. Many more lost their stocks that caught fungicide after hailstorms and rains. If this surprised you, I have more to add. It’s the traders who collect me from farmers, and do the sorting according to market preference. “It is clearly evident that the correlation of daily arrivals of onion with its daily prices is significantly low in all the markets, meaning the prices of onion in these markets have no correlation or weakly correlated with the arrivals,” it reported. Thanks to its celebrated chefs, here you can try a handful of Peru’s almost 5,000 species of potatoes, and still have some space to wonder about what’s beyond these mountains: is it an Indian curry? Instead, “what they did is say: ‘look at the people who eat potatoes. Retail prices reached Rs 165 per kg in Panaji (Goa), Rs 160 per kg in Mayabunder (Andaman) and Rs 150 per kg in Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur and Wayanad (Kerala). In 2009, it was assumed that production would pick up, thus reducing food inflation. Despite these nations’ intimate and complicated relationships with potatoes, and how intertwined their societies and economies are with them, none can truly call them native. Different regions and markets of India want me in their choicest forms and sizes. This put the government on the back foot. It was ironic.

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