Onion prices have crashed to Rs 4.25 per kg at Lasalgaon — the biggest wholesale market for the commodity in the country — leading to furore among farmers who took to the streets.
In neighbouring Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) of Nashik, farmers are resorting to distress sale with prices ranging between Rs 100 and Rs 200 per quintal. Some farmers are even forced to sell their produce at 5 paise per kg, top officials of the APMCs said.
With the new kharif crop beginning to arrive in some of the markets, farmers are now being forced to dispose of their existing stocks, the officials said.
According to Jaydutta Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, with the fresh onions arriving into markets, farmers have no option but to sell. With arrivals crossing 20,000 quintals a day, prices have come crashing down, he said.
Farmers have been holding protests at various locations in Nashik region. Holkar said several meetings between the farmers and the government have produced no results. Moreover, farmers are likely to be deprived of benefits as per the Rs 100 per quintal grant scheme announced by the government since majority of the wholesale markets in Nashik region were closed because of the bandh called in protest against the APMC reforms, he pointed out.
According to Atmaram Kumbharde, chairman, Chandwad APMC, onion should have ideally been selling at Rs 1,000 per quintal at this stage but instead prices have crashed to Rs 200-400 per quintal and even 5 paise per kg in many cases, he said. Since 50% of the kharif onion is already spoilt and there is a 20-40% weight loss, there is no demand in the market as well, he said.
This price downslide now and possible shortages in future will continue until the government finalises an onion policy, Kumbharde said. The condition of farmers is very bad since the production costs are around Rs 800-1,000 per quintal and they are barely getting Rs 200-300 per quintal, he pointed out.
When asked to comment, Nanasaheb Patil, director, Nafed, said that Nafed had made the purchase of onion under the Price Stabilisation Fund nearly 5 months ago and therefore the quality of onion in the interim has drastically gone down.
According to a research study by the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF), there is a 25-32% weight loss in stored onion in two to three months and these onions have been purchased some 5 months ago which means the loss could be more than 50%, Patil said.
There has been double loss this time — the weight loss and quality deterioration to the tune of 50% and onion which were purchased at Rs 800-Rs 850 per quintal then are now selling at Rs 400 per quintal, which means further losses, he said.