According to traders, at present nearly 70-80% of the onion crop is export-worthy, but stock-holding limits make exports difficult.
The onion growers in Nashik are seeking a compensation of Rs 5 per kg for the period from February 1 to March 15 for the delay in the government’s decision to revoke the ban on exports.
Bharat Dighole, president, Maharashtra State Onion Growers’ Association, pointed out that the government had already caused huge losses to farmers by banning onion exports. However, under pressure, it has finally relented, announcing to lift the ban, but delayed the exports to March 15, he said. So, the association has sought compensation from the government at Rs 5 per kg for a period of 45 days. Moreover, the government should deposit the amount directly in farmers’ bank accounts, he said. The association has submitted a representation to the Nashik resident district collector.
Nearly five months after prohibiting onion exports, the Union commerce ministry has stated that the curbs will be lifted from March 15. “The government will allow export of onions from March 15 in the interest of farmers. This will increase their income,” commerce minister Piyush Goyal tweeted. On September 29 last year, the government had banned exports and imposed countrywide stock limits on onion to bring down prices of the key crop that had soared anomalously ahead of elections in Maharashtra and Haryana.
The crackdown followed retail onion prices touching Rs 80 a kg in Delhi due to supply disruptions after floods in some states. In December last year, the prices hit Rs 160 per kg in certain parts of the country. The government’s decision to lift the ban was prompted by a sharp fall in prices due to bumper rabi crop, but it remained unclear when exports would resume.
Dighole of Maharashtra State Onion Growers’ Association had warned of agitation till the government actually lifted the export ban. As part of their protests, farmers blocked the Nashik-Aurangabad highway while some threw their onion stocks in the streets in Vinchur. Farmer protests were also reported in Lasalgaon, Deole, Pimpalgaon, Yeola and Andersul in Nashik district following which onion auctions were brought to a halt.
Market officials said the prices had fallen since the notification lifting the export ban was yet to be issued by the government.
Following the ban-lift announcement, Nashik traders have urged the ministry of consumer affairs to remove the stock limits.
According to traders, at present nearly 70-80% of the onion crop is export-worthy, but stock-holding limits make exports difficult. The government has set stock limits of 250 quintal for wholesalers and 25 quintal for retailers. So, the administration has to keep a close watch on the stocks and daily sales. Demands from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi have dropped due to Holi and therefore the traders are seeking removal of stock limits to stabilise onion arrivals in the market.
“Farmers are unable to store and bring onions to the market due to the restrictive stock-holding limits,” Suvarna Jagtap, chairman of Lasalgaon Agricultural Produced Market Committee (APMC) said, adding this may lead to losses for both farmers and traders in the future.
Lasalgaon is flooded with onion coming from the region and other parts. She said she had already alerted the state and central governments on the need to change policies. Jaydutt Holkar, former chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, said daily arrivals had crossed 20,000-25,000 quintal a day and this had led to a sharp fall in prices. He had said the committee had expressed its concerns to the Centre but there had been no response.
According to market sources, the government has been struggling to dispose the imported onions to states. Of around 36,000 tonne imported onions, four states have picked up just 2,000 tonne. Traders highlighted that there was no demand for the imported crop since consumers prefer the pungency of the Indian variety. The Union government had decided to import onions from Turkey, Holland and Egypt. “We have so far imported 35,000 metric tonne of onion out of which nearly 17,000 metric tonne have been distributed,” officials said.