The raging onion crisis took a new twist on Tuesday with state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil alleging that the Centre decided to ban exports based on wrong data on onion stocks sent to it by the horticulture department.
Onion markets throughout the state, especially in Nashik — which contributes to 60% of the country’s requirement —remained closed for the fifth day in a row after onion growers and traders went on a mass agitation against the ban.
“The director of the horticulture department sent his data without including the figures of onions in storage, that is those in our scientific onion preservation structures. The figures sent puts the current stock at 11 million tonnes but does not include the 9 million tonnes in storage.
We actually have 20 million tonnes of onions and around 26 million tonnes is expected from the kharif season,” said Patil. “The horticulture department should have reported to the agriculture commissioner before sending their estimates.”
DG Bakwad, director, horticulture department agreed that he had not added the storage figures to the estimates as the agriculture marketing department did not report to him.
“We predicted that the kharif plantation is 30-40% lower than last year since the rains have come in late. We only gave the Centre an estimated area of plantation, which is between 60,000-70,000 hectares,” said Bakwad.
Patil and a delegation of MPs and MLAs will meet Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday where Patil will present a report stating these facts. A letter, that was drafted along with the report, was sent to Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday.