Indian police have foiled a bid by robbers to make off with a truck laden with onions, in an unusual crime apparently motivated by rocketing prices of the staple food.

Three men stopped a truck on the main road from the western city of Jaipur to the capital New Delhi on Sunday on the pretence that their vehicle had been damaged in a collision.

After accusing the truck driver of causing the accident, one of the men jumped behind the wheel and the others fled.

Police were quickly alerted and they erected barricades on surrounding roads to stop the thieves.

Seeing their route blocked, the men abandoned their loot and escaped on foot, allowing the grateful truck driver to continue on his journey.

"Hijackers target loaded trucks to loot goods but it is not usual to target food or vegetables," Ram Kishore, a policeman from the northern district of Shahpura where the crime took place, told AFP.

Onion prices are back on the front-pages in India after a spike in prices caused by supply shortages, with a kilogram costing 60 rupees (less than a dollar) in the capital from as little as 15 rupees last year.

The humble root vegetable, an essential ingredient in Indian cooking, has a surprisingly weighty track record of political influence.

In 1980, Indira Gandhi exploited rising onion prices to storm back to power, appearing at campaign rallies waving huge strings of them with the message that a government that can not control onion costs has no right to govern.

And in 1998, a six-fold surge in the cost of onions was held partly responsible for the electoral defeat of the ruling Delhi state government.

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  • An Indian labourer positions onion bags on a vehicle at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A laborer smokes as he sits near sacks of onions at a wholesale market in Jammu, India, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

  • A worker transfers a sack onions from a truck at a wholesale vegetable market in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Aug 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

  • A worker’s child climbs on a sack of onions at a wholesale vegetable market in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Aug 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

  • Indian women prepare a "Rakhi," with onions and grains to protest against price hike in Ahmadabad, India, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

  • An Indian trader counts money as he deals in onions at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indian labourers speaks on a cellular telephone as she sits on onion bags at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indian labourers weigh onion bags ahead of loading them onto waiting transport vehicles at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indian labourers carry onion bags towards waiting transport vehicles at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Indian labourer prepares to carry onion bags towards waiting transport vehicles at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indian labourers fill onion bags ahead of their loading onto transport vehicles at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad on August 17, 2013. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Indian rickshaw puller pedals past with sacks of onions in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

  • An Indian rickshaw puller rests in front of an onion wholesale shop in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

  • Indian daily wage laborers sort onions at a vegetable market in Allahabad, India, Thursday, July 11, 2013. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

  • Indian daily wage laborers throw rotten onions at a vegetable market in Allahabad, India, Thursday, July 11, 2013. (AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)