Faced with growing distress of onion farmers, especially in Maharashtra, due to a plunge in prices, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari today exhorted traders to export more by availing duty benefits and ensure stability.
He also promised that the Centre will take all possible steps to protect interest of onion farmers and if possible, extend the export duty benefits beyond December 31.
“The government is committed to alleviating the woes of onion farmers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a discussion with agriculture and commerce ministers and all possible help will be extended to the farmers,” Gadkari said.
He said the sharp fall in prices has hit onion-producing states, particularly Maharashtra, and farmers are in distress.
“Under the circumstances, we met Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the government has agreed to provide 5 per cent MEIS (Merchandise Exports from India Scheme) for encouraging export of fresh/chilled onions. The scheme is available till December 31, 2016 and if need be, extension can be given,” Gadkari told reporters.
Minister of State Subhash Bhamre, who accompanied Gadkari, was present.
Asking traders to maximise exports to stabilise the onion prices, Gadkari said India is the third-largest exporter of onions after the Netherlands and China.
“The value of 1.2 million fresh and chilled onions exported from India during 2015-16 was about USD 450 million.
Average price per kg at which the onions were exported during 2015-16 was between Rs 20-25 per kg, but this year due to surplus production, it has come down to Rs 10-12 per kg,” the minister said.
“Approval has been granted to provide 5 per cent MEIS to fresh/chilled onions being exported from India and the expected quantity to be exported is about 3.5 lakh tonnes,” the minister said.
At the same time, he urged the farmers to diversify their crops as there is a huge scope in pulses and oil seeds.
He said the Maharashtra government will be sending a detailed proposal for subsidy.
Wholesale prices at the Asia’s biggest onion market at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra have plunged to Rs 6 per kg today compared to Rs 48.50 in the year-ago period, official data showed.
Onion prices have fallen due to estimated higher production at 202 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 crop year (July-June) as against 189 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 crop year.
Farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, which are among leading onion-producing states, have taken to distress sale of the bulb due to higher supply and unsold stocks.
The situation has worsened to the extent that farmers in Nashik district have claimed that they got 5 paise per kg rate for their produce.