A delegation from the Centre, led by top officials of the Union ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, was at Lasalgaon last week to ascertain the reasons behind escalating onion prices at the start of this month and a drop thereafter.
Onion prices at Lasalgaon – the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb – had spiraled upwards to touch `2,700 per quintal at the maximum to average at some `2400 per quintal. Deputy secretary Surender Singh, ministry of consumer affairs, director Abhay Kumar, officials of Nashik district food and civil supplies department and Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) were part of the delegation.
According to Jayfutta Holkar, chairman of Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), the visit was to find out the reasons for the sudden price hike and the fall later. The officials wanted to find out if farmers were part of the onion auctions at Lasalgaon or the traders dominated the proceedings. “The delegation was taken to the mandi to see the actual auction where they spoke to farmers and traders,” Holkar said.
Holkar said that the delegation was told that the price rise had occurred due to demand from other states and not because of panic situation in Maharashtra. “Other states have been inundated with rains and floods and this had led to a spike in demand for onions which caused the prices to go up,” he said. During the start of the month, onion auctions came to a halt at Lasalgaon after maximum prices suddenly rose to `2,700 per quintal, leading to a huge arrivals in the market post noon and a sudden drop in prices to `2,100-1,750 per quintal thereafter.
Holkar said that there was no talk by the delegation on possible creation of a buffer stock. However, he felt that the situation should ease with next month onwards when the new crop starts hitting the market.
Monsoon has been good and the crop should also be good on reports of good planting, he said, adding that there are no confirmed reports on the onion acreage. Over 30,000 quintals had arrived in the market on Friday when maximum prices touched `2,400 per quintal and minimum prices touched `500 per quintal and modal prices were `2,200 per quintal.
Nandkumar Daga, president of Lasalgaon Onion Merchants Association, had earlier pointed out that the flood situation in Gujarat and Rajasthan has shifted demand for onions into Maharashtra. Prices have spurted because of the demand from the North and neighboring states.
Industry sources said that there is a demand pressure on Maharashtra from all across the country including West Bengal, Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, among others. Regular demand from Delhi and other regions is likely to continue with the festive season coming up.