Wholesale onion prices have declined to Rs 2,651 per quintal, which translates to below Rs 30 per kg, at Lasalgaon - the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb - on Thursday, following arrivals drastic decline to a mere 3,700-odd quintal at the Agriculture Produce Market Committee.
The wholesale rate at the APMC was trading at Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 quintal a week ago. In neighbouring Pimpalgaon Baswant at Nashik, average prices also dropped to Rs 2,651 per quintal, with arrivals coming down to Rs 6,960 per quintal. Market committee officials attributed the drop in prices and the arrivals to the recent decisions taken by the Centre to ban onion export and set stock limits to 500 quintal for wholesalers.
"As a result, there are no buyers because of the stock limits imposed by the government. Moreover, because of the uncertainty, very few farmers are coming to the market,"officials said. Minimum prices at Lasalgaon were Rs 1,100 per quintal and maximum prices were Rs 3,017 per quintal averaging at Rs 2,651 per quintal.
Significantly, APMC officials and farmer leaders who held a meeting a couple of days ago at Pimpalgaon have issued an ultimatum to giving the government time until Saturday (October 6) failing which they have threatened that no market auctions will be held in the mandis. On Sunday, the central government completely banned the export of onions and also defined limits to the stock that wholesale and retail traders can hold.
These decisions were taken to keep prices of the bulb stable. However, due to lesser production of onions in Maharashtra and Karnataka, prices had spiked. While in majority of the wholesale markets, onion was trading above Rs 3,400 per quintal to Rs 3,500 per quintal in most, cities' retail customers were buying onion at Rs 60-70 per kg.
Farmers staged a rasta roko on Mumbai-Agra highway at Umrane and at Vinchur on Nashik-Aurangabad road and almost all the market committees saw trade come to a halt on Monday. Markets resumed on Tuesday with modal prices ruling between Rs 3,300-Rs 3,450 per quintal and arrivals were merely 7,000-8,000 quintal.
Pimpalgaon APMC chairman Ashok Bankar said APMCs were established with the interest of farmers in mind. "The government has taken decisions which are totally against the welfare of farmers. We have requested traders and farmers to continue auctions until October 5. If the government does not revoke its decision by Saturday, then the market committees in Nashik district may not be in a position to continue with the auctions," he had warned.
Bankar was present at the meeting of the chairmen and vice-chairmen that was held at Pimpalgaon on Tuesday and said that the farmers had already submitted representations seeking a halt in auctions after the government's ban on export and stock limits.
Bankar said trading would continue till Saturday and a call would be taken if the government does not revoke its decision. Lasalgaon APMC chairman Jaydutta Holkar said a true picture would emerge next week when it would become clear if markets resume. October 8 happens to be Dussehra and Tuesday onwards, it would become clear if trading resumes, he said.