The Centre has directed the National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India ( Nafed) to step in and commence onion procurement directly from farmers in a bid to resolve the ongoing crisis in Nashik district — the onion hub of the country.
A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Subhash Bhamre and Radha Mohan Singh, who held talks with Maharashtra ministers including Sadabhau Khot, minister of state for agriculture & horticulture marketing & textiles, and Subhash Deshmukh, minister for cooperation, NCP Leader Sharad Pawar, and Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetty in Delhi on Wednesday.
Khot said that Nafed will soon begin procurement of excess onion from Nashik at market rates and the cost will be borne equally by the Centre and the state. Khot said that the state government has been directed to send a proposal on the local market rates to the Centre in a couple of days.
Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, said that they had placed two demands before the government — a grant of Rs 500 per quintal for farmers who had already sold their produce at distress rates, and the purchase of the remaining onion by government agencies since the new crop is expected to hit the markets in September.
The minister denied that the government is resorting to the market intervention scheme to resolve the ongoing crisis at Nashik. There has been market speculation that the government is contemplating onion procurement through Nafed in the backdrop of the deadlock between traders and farmers over onion auction in the district.
The state government has delisted vegetables and fruits from the APMC Act in a bid to help farmers sell their produce directly to retailers or consumers. The minister maintained that Maharashtra has excess stock of onions to the tune of 25 lakh tonne and therefore the government has taken this step to help farmers. He said that Nafed will not only procure onions but also sell the produce in Delhi and other major cities. This scheme, however, will be run for a limited period0.
Khot also said that against the backdrop of the crisis at Lasalgaon, where there is a deadlock among farmers and traders over the new mode of purchase though jute bags, the government has also decided to make market committees more accountable. A proposal is being considered to appoint a secretary on behalf of the government on the marketing committees with a turnover of above R5 crore, he said.
The market committees will now be made to become more competitive and be able to market their produce on their own, he added. He said the government has issued showcause notices to all 14 market committees for their failure to resolve the issues between farmers and traders over the issue of the trading in jute bags.
Onion farmers in Lasalgaon — the largest wholesale onion hub in the country — became violent and attacked the office of the chairman of the market committee last week because they were unhappy about being forced to trade in jute bags. Farmers have maintained that they have to bear an additional cost of R70 per quintal. Dilip Bankar, chairman, Pimpalgaon APMC, said that farmers have always been demanding a minimum support price for onion. The government’s move to delist fruits and vegetables from the scope of the APMC without providing an alternate marketing system has resulted in lesser arrivals.
Lasalgaon, the biggest wholesale onion hub in the country, and 14 other market committees in Nashik that had begun trading in jute bags, will revert to trading in the loose form from Thursday. A decision to this effect was taken by traders at a meet held in Nashik on Wednesday.
Sohanlal Bhandari, president, Nashik District Onion Traders Association, said that traders had agreed to the request of farmers to trade in the loose form and permit them to bring their produce in trolleys, after a request from Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh. Onion trading in Lasalgaon and 14 market committees in Nashik district has been erratic following the opposition of farmers to the new form of trading in jute bags. Bhandari said that traders have agreed to trade onion in the loose form until the report of the state government-appointed panel on new trading norms comes in.