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'We have no stocks left'

The Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee, Asia’s largest onion trading hub, normally overflows with produce-laden trucks — over 2,200 on any given day.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2010 01:28 IST
Zeeshan Shaikh

The Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee, Asia’s largest onion trading hub, normally overflows with produce-laden trucks — over 2,200 on any given day.

With onion prices hitting an all-time high, you’d expect farmers to throng the market. But, on Wednesday, the market was comparatively deserted. “Over the last few days, we’ve been getting only 300 to 400 trucks a day,” said Nandu Gite, a labourer.

The reason: heavy unseasonal rain that lashed Nashik district, Maharashtra’s onion basket, destroyed most of the crop and led to a spurt in prices.

Maharashtra produces nearly 30% of India’s onions. After the rain, Nashik’s onion yield fell 67% to 70%.

Farmers said that though onions are fetching great prices now, they have no stocks to sell. “My farm used to produce 20 quintals per acre. After the rain, production fell to 5 quintals per acre. I have nothing to sell,” said Ashok Khot, who planted onions on two acres of land.

Farmers like Khot claimed traders who bought onions on the cheap earlier were now reaping huge profits.

At Lasalgaon, high-quality onions were being sold at Rs 6,299 per quintal (100 kg). The lowest quality onions were going for Rs 600 per quintal, while the average was Rs 2,500.

“It is the traders who are claiming high prices. The farmers get only Rs 1,000-1,200 per quintal. The traders are jacking up prices and the government is doing nothing about it,” said Narayan Gunjal, a farmer from Yeola.

Farmers also said that the state’s policies on onion production and farmers were flawed.

“The government only wakes up when onion prices rise. It does nothing when prices crash to 50 paise per kg,” said Milind Dhanwate, a farmer from Vinchur.

Farmers felt that in an open economy demand and supply should decide prices.

“People don’t think twice before eating mutton that costs Rs 200 per kg. Why do they complain when onion prices hit just Rs 100? Those who can’t afford it should not eat it,” said Bhausaheb Shinde, a local farmer.