The state cabinet has announced that it will financially assist the hard-pressed onion farmers by giving them a grant of Re1 behind every kilogram. Though the government has claimed that about 3 lakh farmers will benefit from the new scheme, farmers have demanded grant of at least Rs5 a kilogram in the wake of the fallen onion prices.
With a bumper crop during rabi season, the onion prices have fallen to Rs 500-600 a quintal this season after the production for 2015-16 was registered at 74.28 lakh metric tonne against 56.89 lakh metric tonnes during 2014-15. This excess produce has spelled trouble for the farmers, as they are unable to recover even the production cost . After the issue reached the Centre, the state government moved the proposal of issuing the grant of Re1 a kilogram to the farmers who have sold their produced between July 1 and August 31, 2016.
“The grant will be given to the farmers who have sold their onion stock through Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) markets. As per our records, farmers have sold about 65 lakh quintal in the last two months and the total cost expected to be incurred is Rs65 crore. We sent a proposal to the Centre on August 23, requesting it to foot 50% of the total grant amount,” said an official from the state marketing department.
Though the state government has urged the central government to share the 50% of the cost towards the grant, the Centre is yet to respond. If the Centre turns down the proposal, the state has decided to bear the entire cost.
After the state government expressed inability to purchase the onion from the farmers owing to the shortage of warehouses to store the produce, the decision of issuing the grant was taken in a meeting between the union and the state ministers on August 10. A similar grant of 50 paise a kg was given in 2008 when the onion market prices crashed.
Voices of dissent
The onion farmers, however, expressed displeasure over the amount state is ready to dole out per kilogram. “The cost of production per quintal is Rs885, against which the current procurement price is about Rs600 a quintal. The grant should have been at least Rs500 a quintal [Rs5 a kg] to safeguard the interest of the farmers,” said Nanasaheb Patil, director of National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED).
Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar criticised the state for sending the proposal this late. “The state had assured in the meeting held in Delhi that the proposal will be sent within 12 hours, but it was not sent until recently,” he said.