Onion farmers are bearing the brunt of excess production, leading to sharp fall in its price in the markets.
A farmer in Nashik sold onions for barely R5 per kg on Tuesday at the Pimpalgaon Baswant APMC.
Around four months ago, a farmer in Maharashtra had said that he could earn only Re 1 from sale of nearly a tonne of onions at the district Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) owing to excess availability of onions.
Humid weather has also played spoilsport for farmers, as they are unable to store their crops in godowns for longer period and forced to sell them at lower price, said Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC.
According to Holkar, farmers have not been able to recover their cost of production which is nearly R650-700 per quintal, while the market rates have dropped down to R550-600 per quintal.
Holkar has sent a representation to Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh, seeking a grant of R500 per quintal for farmers who sold their produce in distress during the past couple of months.
He has also urged the minister to consider the minimum support price (MSP) at R1,500 to R2,000 per quintal for onion growers.
The new crop will hit the markets by the end of September, adding to the existing stock, he said.
Earlier this month, the Centre had directed the National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India ( Nafed) to start onion procurement directly from farmers under the market intervention scheme in a bid to help farmers in Nashik.
Onion trading at Lasalgaon and 14 other market committees in Nashik region has been erratic because of the APMC strike last month over the issue of regulatory checks on farmers. As business resumed with traders agreeing to purchase onion in loose form, supply of the crop has shot up further.
According to Holkar, on an average, the supply of onion is 15,000 to 20,000 quintals a day.
Industry experts estimate that Maharashtra has the stockpile of 25 to 30 lakh tonnes of summer crop ( unhal) onion, out of which about 50 % is in Nashik alone.
This is the only variety of onion that can be stored for several months. However, the crop, which is currently traded in APMCs, was harvested in March-April.
Monsoon, humidity and insufficient storage facilities have affected the onion crop.
sHolkar said, the arrival of onion has increased because of the short window available to farmers for sale with the new crop expected to hit markets soon.
He also pointed that the supply had gone up after farmers were allowed to sell onions outside markets.
“I fail to find any difference even after the market reforms have happend. The fact that farmers are still coming to APMC markets means that they want regulation and assurance of a good price . The presence of the APMC is meant to regulate traders as well. This is evident from the fact that a farmer in Niphad region of Nashik sold his onions for merely R5 per quintal on Tuesday. Therefore regulations are important,” Holkar said.
Although the concept of private markets is emerging in the state, this concept is yet to be implemented on the ground.
The first agricultural market parallel to the APMC at Lasalgaon commenced operations with the auction of pomegranates. The market spread over 7 acres was started by Lasalgaon Kharedi Vikri Sangh (LKVS), a sub-agency of Nafed. The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) and the co-operative department of the state government have supported the group. However, trading of onion cannot take place at this point of time due to insufficient storage space. a government-appointed committee’s report on market reforms is expected to be out by the end of the month.
In April and May, Nafedhad procured 5,000 metric tonnes of onions under the Price Stability Funds (PSF) for the Centre to create buffer stock in a bid to stabilise prices in the domestic markets in case of scarcity. Nafed had procured onions from farmers at the APMCs at Lasalgaon, Pimpalgaon and Kalwan.
Meanwhile, Manoj Sinha, minister of state for railways at a media meet in Nashik stated that a proposal is being considered to commence a cargo train for onions on the lines of the milk train.