Lack of demand due to the ongoing wedding season and heavy arrivals in the market have brought down onion prices well below the Rs 5 per kg mark to Rs 3.50 per kg in Lasalgaon — the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb. According to senior officials of the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), modal prices of onions have been in the range of Rs 350 per quintal for the past week because of the lack of demand. According to Nanasaheb Patil, director, Nafed and chairman, Lasalgaon Kharedi Vikri Sangh, this is a sign of the things to come and must be taken as a sign of distress by the government.
“Over the past year, not just onions, farmers have failed to get good prices for almost every commodity. There has been an over-supply of almost every commodity — onions, tomatoes, pomegranates, grapes, fruits, vegetables. The case of onion is even more distressing. Even after a record export of 30 lakh tonnes, there is an over-supply in the market,” he said. “Earlier, onion was largely cultivated in two districts of Nashik — Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon. Now it is grown in 12 districts. Not only Maharashtra, but Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh are also cultivating onions and therefore prices will fall,” he pointed out.
“This season there has been the highest record for export of onions at around 30 lakh tonnes after the removal of Minimum Export Price (MEP) and extension of Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) for onion until March 31, 2017. This is a reflection of the disturbance on cropping pattern because the focus is more on imports of oilseeds, pulses rather than encouraging our farmers to cultivate these.
As a result, the area under oilseeds has gone down and there is more focus on fruits and vegetables leading to an oversupply,” he explained. Nanasaheb Patil has submitted a detailed presentation to the chief minister’s office on this issue. Onions from Laslagaon are exported to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, UAE, Nepal, Indonesia, Qatar, Kuwait, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Pakistan.
With a bumper harvest of ‘red’ variety onion crop, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) yards in Nashik were flooded with onion and prices remained low. Similar is the case with the summer variety of onion. According to MSAMB officials, there has been a record plantation this season as well which has resulted in bumper crop because of a good monsoon. The area under Kharif was around 0.63 lakh hectares in 2015-16 and 0.60 lakh hectares in 2016-17, in late Kharif it was 1.29 lakh hectares in 2015-16 and 0.82 lakh hectares in 2016-17 and Rabi it was 3.30 lakh hectares in 2015-16 and 3.21 lakh hectares in 2016-17.
Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC had earlier pointed out that with a bumper crop expected, farmers who are already in distress will be forced to sell at distress prices. Maharashtra is one of the foremost states in the production of onion and with the crop grown on some 3.99 lakh hectares, the state produces around 54.36 lakh tonnes of the commodity. Maharashtra produces 25-30% of the total production of onion in the country.