Nashik onion farmers turn to other crops

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Pune | Published: November 12, 2014 12:12:41 AM

Farmers in Nashik, India’s largest onion belt, have begun to turn their back on onion cultivation and are looking...

Farmers in Nashik, India’s largest onion belt, have begun to turn their back on onion cultivation and are looking at other lucrative options.

“Farmers have been suffering losses for three to four years on account of natural calamities and have not been getting good prices. Seed shortage and higher prices demanded by seed companies are also forcing them to look at other crops. In the next two years, Maharashtra could face a major setback in onion cultivation,” Nanasaheb Patil, chairman, Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee ( APMC), warned.

According to data shared by the agriculture department, kharif onion has been planted on 7,662 hectares as against the usual 20,584 hectares this year. In late kharif as well, plantation has fallen to 23,380 hecta-res as against an average area of 35,500 hectares. Around 30% of traditional onion farmers have preferred to plant other crops, industry watchers said.

Patil agrees, saying that while it is difficult to gather accurate data, several farmers in the region have been talking about shifting to other crops because of falling prices and seasonal factors in addition to greater government intervention. Farmers are reportedly shifting to bajra, jowar and corn. Rising cost of production is also affecting the sentiment since this is a labour-intensive crop. The cost of production comes to R56,000 per acre to R90,000 per acre and the yield barely comes to 88 quintals per acre which is not viable for farmers, Patil pointed out.

Niphad, Sinnar, Yeola, Dindori, Devala, Malegaon, Satana and Nandgaon are considered major onion growing areas in Nashik. According to data shared by department officials, there has been a marked decrease in plantation of onion in 8 talukas of the district. This year, farmers went into loss because of factors such as hailstorms and non-seasonal rain. The two month delay in the monsoon led to delay in the kharif crop.
Seed shortage has been another major issue. Seed plots are sensitive crops and need to be carefully nurtured in times of non-seasonal rain.

“While Mahabeej has announced a rate of R1,700 per kg, other seed companies have begun to charge rates to the tune of R3,700 per kg and R4,500 per kg. Although National Horticulture Research & Development Foundation (NHRDF) does supply seeds, this is not enough to meet the requirements of farmers,” a farmer said.

RP Gupta, director of NHRDF, says acreage has been going down for late kharif and rabi seasons. There has been a delay in planting this year and farmers have not been getting prices they desired, he said.

Patil said that although farmers talk of shifting to other crops, this cannot be considered a solution. The government needs to intervene.
Average wholesale onion price at Lasalgaon was recorded at R1,375 a quintal last week. The minimum and maximum prices were recorded at R500 and R1,580 a quintal, respectively. Around 10,000 quintals of onions were auctioned at Lasalgaon.

In Pimpalgaon, average wholesale onion price was recorded at R1,400 a quintal . The minimum and maximum prices were recorded at R800 and R1,700 a quintal, respectively. Around 6,250 quintals were auctioned at Pimpalgaon.

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