The team was of the opinion that there were adequate stocks and an artificial shortage was being created by traders for their gain.
The government’s decision to ban exports of onions and limit stocks of up to 500 quintal per wholesaler and 100 quintal per retailer led to a suspension of trade in almost all the 14 agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) in Nashik district on Monday.
Markets remained shut in the morning with traders initially refusing to trade causing irate farmers to stage ‘Rasta Roko’ in various parts of the district.
Protests are expected to intensify in the onion-growing areas in the run-up to the polls. On the other hand, exporters were in a scramble to get their containers cleared at the ports. At least 30-40 containers were still at ports waiting to be cleared, top exporters said.
The two decisions on Sunday came amid reports of spiralling onion prices and just ahead of Maharashtra and Haryana elections. Onion prices have more than doubled in the past two months due to short supply. According to the consumer affairs ministry, retail price touched a maximum of Rs 70/kg in Rajkot and was available in Delhi at Rs 60/kg.
A meeting of the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the APMCs in Nashik district has been called on Tuesday. At another meeting of traders held at Chandwad on Monday, traders have decided to clear their stocks before making new purchases and then meet the district collector of Nashik to get clarity on floating stocks.
Trade resumed at 4 pm on Monday and may go on until 7 pm but then onions have to be sorted, graded and packed and vehicles have to be available on time for the stocks to be transported, a trader revealed.
“A single truck can load up to 30 tonne of onion and therefore hereon transporting onions may not be economically viable for traders. Moreover, it is not necessary that all arrivals at APMCs are sold. Sometimes, traders are left with their stocks. What happens in such cases. All such practical issues require clarity,” the trader said. Traders are seeking scrapping of the imposition of stock limits, he said.
Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon, the largest wholesale market for onion in the country, said initially traders refused to trade which led to upset farmers to take to the street. Trade resumed late afternoon with prices ruling between Rs 3,200 and Rs 3,400 per quintal, he said.
A second team from the Centre held a meeting with the officials at Lasalgaon on Friday and warned traders against hoarding onions. The team was of the opinion that there were adequate stocks and an artificial shortage was being created by traders for their gain.
Nafed director Nanasaheb Patil, who attended the meeting held on Friday with the Central team, stated intense reactions came in after the government imposed stock limits. This will lead to a dip in arrivals and a market like Lasalgaon which usually reports arrivals of more than 20,000 quintal a day will come down to merely 5,000 quintal a day. Traders will not consent to a cap on stocks. Traders in Nashik district are large scale dealers and the cap of 500 quintal is not going to help either the trader or farmer, he said.
Atmaram Kumbharde, chairman, Chandwad APMC, said he had written to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, urging him to revoke the decision regarding stock limits. On a normal basis, traders in Nashik deal with 50-150 tonne per day and therefore will not be able to buy more than 20 tractors at a time, he said that such a decision could harm the prospects of Bharaitya Janata Party in the coming polls.
The Centre needs to understand the demand and supply situation and then take such measures, Nafed director Patil said. “This season, the floods in southern markets led to an imbalance in supply and moreover the heavy rainfall in August led to a delay in planting of onions which means that arrivals which usually begin from October 5 will now be delayed by a month. Arrivals from Pune, Lonan and Chakan are also delayed due to rains. Therefore such strict measures will not help the market,” Patil said. Moreover, there were no significant exports even when the MEP was scrapped and now banning will not help, he said.
Onion Exporters Association president Ajit Shah said traders were in a fix because of the ban on export. Around 30-40 containers were still at ports waiting to be cleared and there was no clarity on what happens to these containers, he said. Each container is of 29 tonne each, he said. These shipments were bound for the Far East and Colombo.