Onion prices in Lasalgaon — the country's largest wholesale market for the bulb — have dropped below the Rs 5/kg mark.
Onion prices in Lasalgaon — the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb — have dropped below the Rs 5/kg mark. Modal onion prices are ruling in the range of Rs 400-430 per quintal with arrivals peaking at 33,947 quintal on Wednesday. At the Lasalgaon wholesale market, which serves as the benchmark for onion prices across the country, prices have been in the range of Rs 300-430 per quintal over the past month.
In view of the situation, onion farmers have begun queuing up for a grant of `200 per quintal as promised by the government. The Maharashtra government has given the go-ahead to extend the subsidy of `200 per quintal to onion farmers by a fortnight. Until now, farmers who had sold their onions between November 1 and December 15 were eligible for the subsidy, with individual quantity being capped at 200 quintal. The chief minister has given an in-principle approval to extend the subsidy till December 31, 2018.
In Lasalgaon alone, 10,200 farmers had applied for the grant. With the extension, another 5,000-6,000 farmers are expected to apply for the scheme, Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) said. Around 72,000 farmers have applied for the scheme so far. A delegation, led by Atmaram Kumbharde, chairman, Chandwad APMC, had met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking a raise in the grant from Rs 200 per quintal to Rs 400.
The delegation also sought inclusion of those farmers who did not sell their produce to market committees but on eNAM and other markets, including Vashi, Ahmednabad and Surat, among others. These farmers have necessary receipts and documents to prove their sales and therefore should not be deprived of this scheme, he said. According to him, some 2,500 onion farmers in Chandwad district and about 5,000 farmers in Nashik district fall in this category.
A rise in onion prices over the past couple of years triggered a surge in the area under cultivation of this cash crop in Nashik district, a major supplier to Mumbai, Delhi and many parts of north India.
In four years, the area under onion cultivation in Nashik district has almost doubled. The crop area in Nashik increased from 1.24 lakh hectare in 2013-14 to 2.28 lakh hectare in 2017-18, while onion production doubled from 21.42 lakh tonne to 46 lakh tonne. There has been almost an 80% rise in the area under cultivation of onions in the last couple of years.
A delegation from Maharashtra led by Lasalgaon APMC had sought a Minimum Support Price for onion and the implementation of the Bhavantar Bhugtan scheme for farmers. Holkar had sought fixing `8.5 a kg as the minimum selling price (MSP) for onion but various representations failed to evoke a response from the government.
According to Kumbharde, apart from Maharashtra, other states have jumped on the onion cultivation bandwagon, including Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthana and Madhya Pradesh which has led to a drop in demand for onion from Maharashtra. Exports were also not picking up despite the 10% subsidy because onions from Pakistan and Bangladesh were much cheaper and Bangladesh had imposed a 100% duty on export from India, he said.
“Bangladesh serves as a gateway to most of the Gulf countries and therefore our government should approach Bangladesh to reduce this duty,” he said. Maharashtra is one of the largest growers of onions in the country with an export share of about 80 %. “Now farmers are left with huge stockpiles of onions, with many preferring to dump the crop for want of good rates.”