Market committee officials pointed out that the bumper crop this year has led to huge arrivals in the market leading to a fall in prices.
The fall in onion prices has led to a 50% drop in income of the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in the Nashik district, one of the main onion producing belts in Maharashtra, this fiscal.
Lasalgaon APMC, the largest wholesale onion market in the country, reported revenues of Rs 3.50 crore in 2018-19. Last year, the market committee’s turnover was Rs 6.15 crore. Similarly, the neighbouring Pimpalgaon Baswant reported revenues of Rs 10.63 crore as compared to Rs 16.77 crore the previous year. Yeola APMC saw its income drop from Rs 6.01 crore to Rs 2.90 crore this year.
Other market committees besides Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon Baswant, including Niphad, Kalwan, Manmad, Nandgaon and Chandwad, that also deal in foodgrains in addition to onions, had to bear losses of nearly Rs 75 crore this fiscal, according to market committee officials.
Sanjay Patil, secretary, Pimpalgaon Baswant market committee said that both onion and tomato have been on the downslide during the year causing losses to farmers and in turn to the committee as well. Market committees usually charge 1% as the market cess for the sale of the produce, he explained.
This fiscal, the market committee suffered losses of Rs 6 crore which means farmers have suffered even more losses, he said.
Employee salaries and development work of the market committees is done through the revenues earned from the market cess and this means that development work is usually impacted, he added.
Significantly, Pimpalgaon Baswant has shifted to a new 100 acre site for onion auctions which commenced from last week.
Over 60-70% income of the committee comes from onion, followed by tomatoes, raisins, pomegranates, fruits and vegetables, he said.
Onion prices in 2017-18 were in the range of Rs 1,000 per quintal to Rs 1,200 per quintal, which led to a rise in the revenues of market committees. However, this year, the average price of onion remained at Rs 500 per quintal as a result of which there has been a 50-60% drop in earnings of these market committees, he said.
Market committee officials pointed out that the bumper crop this year has led to huge arrivals in the market leading to a fall in prices. A large section of onion farmers had suffered huge losses last year after the prices crashed. The government announced a compensation package to make up for their losses. Onion farmers have begun getting these grants from the government.
Average prices in the wholesale markets of Nashik, the largest onion growing belt in Maharashtra, have been in the range of Rs 533-539 per quintal during January this year. Surplus onion in the markets led to the dip in prices. On a daily basis, some 23,510-25,780 quintal of onion arrive in Lasalgaon — the largest wholesale onion market in the country. Modal prices of summer onions had dipped below Rs 170 per quintal due to the glut in the market, caused by heavy arrivals of the new Kharif onion even as old stocks of summer onions were yet to be exhausted.
According to market committee officials, the Centre has instructed the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) to buy 50,000 tonne of summer crops to overcome any price hike later in the year. The central agency will start onion procurement from mid-April. Over 45,000 tonne onions will be picked up from Maharashtra and the remaining 5,000 from other states. So far, the maximum onions the government had bought was 13,500 tonne in 2018.