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Centre’s directive results in plunge in onion trade

Nanda Kasabe
Market arrivals drastically dropped to around 2,100 quintal in Lasalgaon on Friday.

Even as onion trade at Lasalgaon - the country's largest wholesale market for the bulb - resumed after the weekend, uncertainty continues to prevail in all Agriculture Produce Market Committees in Nashik district, a major onion belt in the state.

On the directives of the Centre, the state government has asked all APMCs in Nashik district to maintain a daily record of procurement of registered traders which has resulted in a price drop. Top officials revealed that daily report has to be submitted to the Deputy District Registrar (DDR) on procurement of onion every day, which has led to a drop in both arrivals and procurement by traders.

Arrivals have dropped to 2,000-3,000 odd quintal from 10,000 quintal before September 29. The maximum wholesale rate of onion at Lasalgaon in Nashik district have declined from the peak of Rs 5,100 per quintal in mid-September, according to the data maintained by the National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation.

Market arrivals drastically dropped to around 2,100 quintal in Lasalgaon on Friday.

Barely 1,500 odd quintal trickled into the market on Monday after farmer bodies threatened to boycott onion auctions at the APMCs from Monday to mark their protest against the imposition of stock limits and ban on onion export. Earlier, chairmen of the APMCs and farmer leaders had given an ultimatum to the Centre to withdraw the onion stock limit by October 5, failing which they had threatened to stop onion auctions.

The Centre, however has not responded to the demand.

On Monday, onion traded at an average price of Rs 3,600 per quintal with the minimum at Rs 1,500 per quintal and a maximum of Rs 3,825 per quintal. Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, said that very little onion arrived in the market on Monday and although farmer bodies have called for a boycott of auctions, there is an element of uncertainty in the market.

Some new onion arrived in the market on Monday in negligible quantities and traded at Rs 3,600 per quintal, he said. "The market will remain closed on Tuesday due to Dussehra and a clear picture may emerge on Wednesday regarding the resumption of trade. None of the bodies have approached the market committees regarding a boycott," the trader said.

Traders have claimed that unnecessary rumours are being spread in the market about the disruption of trade. One of the traders pointed out that the market committees and farmer bodies had met the district collector seeking a rollback of the export ban and imposition of stock limits, he maintained.

The Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers' organisation, held a meeting on Sunday and decided to boycott the auctions at the APMCs in the district. On September 29, the Centre had banned onion export and also imposed stock limits of 100 quintal for retailer sellers and 500 quintal for wholesalers. This had led to a drop in the average wholesale onion price from Rs 3,600 per quintal to Rs 2,650 per quintal in just a week.

"We had requested the government to withdraw the stock limit and also lift the onion export ban. We had also given representations to various APMCs," said Anil Ghanwat, national president, Shetkari Sanghatana.

This practice of sacrificing the interests of onion farmers and traders to win elections has to stop, he said. "Due to stocks constraints, it is impossible for traders to buy onions. Limiting the wholesale trader to five hundred quintals reveals a lack of study of onion trade and onion has become a cruel joke for traders and farmers," he said.

Ghanwat said that the agitation of the farmers' association will be fought in two phases. The farmer body is urging farmers to call for boycott of the ruling party meetings and voting for the candidates of those parties till the onion trade is stopped and the farmers are given full trade freedom and technology freedom. Ghanwat said the government should hold discussions with farmers and traders about removal of restrictions.

The average wholesale onion prices had crashed by Rs 600 per quintal from Rs 4,500 per quintal on September 19 to Rs 2,700 per quintal on Friday in district 'mandis', following imposition of stock limits. Farmers had come out on the streets in various parts of the district in protest.