Lasalgaon – the country’s largest wholesale onion market – has restarted onion auctions after a gap of over 10 days. Onion auctions at Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) were shut since April 20 due to a dispute over the mode of payment to farmers by traders. A meeting between the market officials and traders on Monday, however, saw the market resume operations. Around 17,500 quintals of summer onions arrived in the market on Tuesday with minimum prices at Rs 300 per quintal and maximum prices at Rs 600 and modal prices touching Rs 470 per quintal.
In the neighbouring Pimpalgaon, arrivals were to the tune of 29,500 quintals with modal prices at Rs 501 per quintal. Last week, arrivals at Pimpalgaon touched over 50,000 quintals as Lasalgaon remained shut over the payment row. The payment dispute started over the refusal of traders to make payment to farmers by cash or through NEFT but only by cheques. Farmers have been complaining that it takes around one-and-a-half months for the clearance of cheques.
As per the APMC norms, farmers should receive payments within 24 hours of auction. Jaydutta Holkar, chairman of Lasalgaon APMC, said that the market committee has brought the auctions to a halt since there have been several complaints of delays over cheque payments by traders to the farmers.
Traders had also threatened to consider the private market option and were in discussions with the Lasalgaon Kharedi Vikri Sangh, one of the first private markets to open up in Nashik. Some of the traders also attempted conducting auctions outside the environs of the Lasalgaon Mandi last week but this was declared illegal by the district registrar and the auctions came to a stop.
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Holkar said the issues were resolved on Monday after a meeting between traders and the market officials. Traders have agreed to make part payments in cash and the remaining payments through nationalised bank cheques. Earlier, the traders used to give cheques of district cooperative credit banks. These banks had faced payment issues during the demonetisation period, he said. Therefore, traders were directed to issue cheques of nationalised banks. Manoj Jain, who represents traders, confirmed the development and said that the traders were in agreement to make payments through nationalised bank cheques. For those in favour of cash payments, we shall arrange for that as well, he said.
When asked about the private market option, Jain said that this is still being explored by the traders as a long term option but, for now, the traders have agreed to commence auctions at the Lasalgaon APMC. Lasalgaon APMC records daily auction of 15,000-20,000 quintals of onions. The average wholesale price has declined to the range of Rs 400 to Rs 550 a quintal in the past 11 months. The Maharashtra government’s decision to delist fruits and vegetables from the scope of the APMC Act led to the formation of private markets in the state.