With a bumper crop in the offing, rising onion arrivals are causing major concern to farmers who are being forced to sell the commodity at prices as low as Rs 3-5 per kg in some parts of Maharashtra. Last week, onion farmers in the Aurangabad region of the state had registered their protest by refusing to sell their produce to agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) for a few days. This time, farmer organisations are up in arms against falling onion prices and have decided to come onto streets on Thursday.
Onion output is estimated to touch a new record at 203 lakh tonnes in the ongoing 2015-16 crop year (July-June) as against 189.2 lakh tonnes in 2014-15. The previous record was 194 lakh tonnes in 2013-14. This is causing concern among farmers as they are unable to store as much of the produce as they want. While top quality onions are being stored, farmers are forced to sell their lower-grade onion at low prices, top officials of the Lasalgaon APMC said. NAFED purchased onions at around Rs 700-800 per quintal for storage but low-quality onions are selling at Rs 100-150 per quintal and this is a cause for concern, Nanasaheb Patil, chairman of Lasalgaon APMC, said. According to him, kharif plantation could take a hit if the farmers continue to make losses.
According to the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’s officials, the government has not taken any measures to stem the price fall barring the decision to store some 1,5000 tonnes of onion under the price stabilisation fund. There is a huge disparity in the prices that farmers get and the retail market prices, and therefore the farmers’ organisation has decided to come on to the street to protest against falling prices, spokesperson Yogesh Pande said.
According to Patil, prices of the bulb have dropped to such an extent that they do not cover the cost of production. Last season was bad for farmers and this season promises to be the same; farmers are not in a position to sustain losses for two consecutive seasons, he said. Some 16,000 quintals arrived at Lasalgaon on Tuesday with modal prices at Rs 725 per quintal. On Monday 18,905 quintals arrived at the market with modal prices touching Rs 700 per quintal.
Arrivals are expected to increase as the season progresses, he said, adding that this will result in lower prices. Patil pointed out that some farmers at present are not in a position to store their produce in warehouses and are keeping the onions in the open. This is alright as long as it is bright and sunny; once the rains begin, the farmers will be forced to resort to distress sale, he said. A limited amount of onion has been stored under the Price Stabilisation Fund of the Centre and more needs to be done to maintain stocks, he said. Moreover, late kharif onion arrivals are on the rise in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Nashik district alone, daily onion arrivals exceed 15,000 to 20,000 quintals.
A recent National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation ( NHRDF) report states that onion exports fell by 6.75% to 8.28 lakh tonnes in the first 10 months of 2015-16. Patil pointed out that some incentives should be given so that farmers are encouraged to export. According the latest NHRDF report, harvesting of rabi onion is continuing in full swing in almost all the major rabi onion-producing states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.