A team from the PMO is slated to visit Lasalgaon, the biggest wholesale market for onion in the country, on Friday to conduct an inquiry into the causes behind the huge volatility in prices during the past year, top officials of the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) said.
During the past one year, average prices of onion have varied between R600-6000 per quintal and the constant volatility has led to the need for an inquiry, officials said.
A letter from the Union ministry of food & consumer affairs has reached the District Collectorate of Nashik in this regard. Accordingly local authorities have swung into action and notified all stakeholders concerned to be present for a meeting at the office of the collectorate, Lasalgaon APMC chairman Nanasaheb Patil said.
The volatility in onion prices and the continuous fall in the last few weeks have been a cause of concern for both the government as well as farmers. Angry farmers took to the street on Monday and Tuesday at Pimpalgaon Baswant markets in Nashik to protest against falling prices.
Average wholesale prices fell below R6.50 per kg in the last couple of days prompting the farmers to take to the street. On Thursday, average prices at Lasalgaon touched R700 per quintal and some 15,000 quintals of onion arrived in the market. The situation was similar on Tuesday.
According to Patil, prices at Lasalgaon were slightly better because there are more exporters present here. Even the move by the government to remove MEP has not helped improve sentiments and officials feel the downslide will continue. The arrivals are huge and are expected to continue till the end of March since the kharif onion cannot be stored, he said.
“Price variations are a cause for concern. Even at Lasalgaon farmers are upset but are still holding themselves together before going to the street. If the prices fall further, they too may protest,” he said.
Significantly, a bumper rabi crop is expected this year and this has become another cause for concern since the arrivals will begin from March.
However, as the rabi onion can be stored, officials expect more storage this year. Last season farmers stored some 40 lakh tonne of onion and this year 5-7% more storage is expected, RP Gupta, director, National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF) said.
According to Gupta, at present, onions arriving in different markets of the country are the produce of late kharif season. The major late kharif onion producing states are Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The quality of the onions coming in the markets is very good and the per unit productivity is expected to be higher in comparison to the previous years. NHRDF has estimated that this year, the production will be more by 5-7% in comparison to the last year.
The major rabi onion growing states are Maharashtra, MP, Gujarat, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. The transplanting of onion seedlings has been completed in Maharashtra and Gujarat while it is still continuing in other parts of the country especially in northern states, which will be over by end of this month.