The PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) is keeping a close watch on the onion prices and its availability in Maharashtra. The PMO has sought a detailed report from the Nashik district administration and the agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) on the onion stock position, remunerations received by farmers and stocks being held by traders.
According to sources, the government is considering constituting committees to study and evaluate the stock position in the market and plans to send these committees to Nashik region.
Nashik is among the largest onion producing belts in the country. Jaydutta Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), confirmed the development. “We have informed the Centre that there are no excess stocks being held by traders and most of the onion stock is still with farmers,” he said.
Modal onion prices at Lasalgaon on Wednesday touched Rs 1,400 per quintal with minimum price at Rs 700 per quintal and maximum at Rs 1,642 per quintal. A total of 8,000 quintal of onion arrived in the market on Wednesday. On Tuesday arrivals were around 15,665 quintal with modal prices averaging at Rs 1,500 per quintal. Around 15,965 quintal of onion arrived in the market on Monday. Average prices were then Rs 1,570 per quintal.
Holkar pointed out that arrivals in the market were good and the prices were also on the lower side. “I do not see any logic in the government seeking such information at this juncture when prices are down and new crop arrivals are also expected anytime soon,” he said.
Last month, a delegation from the central government led by top officials of the Union ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution was in Laslagaon to ascertain the reasons behind escalating onion prices at the start of the month and the drop in prices thereafter.
Onion prices at Lasalgaon — the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb — had spiralled upwards to touch Rs 2,700 per quintal, while the average price was Rs 2,400 per quintal.
Deputy secretary Surender Singh, ministry of consumer affairs, director Abhay Kumar and officials of Nashik district food and civil supplies department and Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) were part of the delegation that visited Lasalgaon.
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 actual auction where they spoke to farmers and traders,” Holkar said.
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation has begun procuring onion from Lasalgaon under the Centre’s Price Stabilisation Fund. Nafed officials have been procuring some 8-10 truckloads on a daily basis for the Delhi market in order to keep a check on a possible price rise. However, since the onion arriving in the market is already five months old, there is no possibility of stocking them, said Nanasaheb Patil, director, Nafed.
The objective is to sell onions through direct retail outlets in Delhi and other markets outside of Delhi. Onion trader Manoj Jain said that traders were willing to sell onions at Rs 13-13.50 per kg but there are no buyers in the market. “On a daily basis, more than 1,000 truckloads of onions arrive in the market and Nafed is barely procuring 6-8 vehicles. The government should use its Rs 750 crore Price Stabilisation Fund to procure onions in the interests of the farmers instead of adopting such strategy,” he said.
Some traders have imported around 4,000 tonne of onions so far from Egypt and the shipments of another 6,000 tonne are on way to Mumbai port, which is expected within a week or two. The landing price of onions from Egypt in Mumbai is at Rs 20-22 per kg. But the average wholesale onion prices currently have dropped to Rs 1,500 per quintal.