MP: Onion farmers race against time to sell produce before monsoon sets in
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MP: Onion farmers race against time to sell produce before monsoon sets in

Onion farmers in Madhya Pradesh are going through an excruciatingly slow process to sell their produce at wholesale markets before the monsoon sets in. For its part, the government is bracing for a massive financial loss for poor procurement, storage and distribution.

india Updated: Jul 02, 2017 07:03 IST
Punya Priya Mitra and Shruti Tomar
Punya Priya Mitra and Shruti Tomar
Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh,Farmers' plight,Bumper crop
Tractor trolleys loaded with onion lined up outside a mandi on Bhopal- Indore highway in Madhya Pradesh.(Mujeeb Faruqui/HT Photo)

Raja Sawalia (47), a farmer of Sehore district stares with foreboding at the looming monsoon clouds as he stands behind hundreds of tractor-trolleys brimming with onions waiting their turn to sell them at the Karond mandi in Bhopal.

Will his turn come before the monsoon sets in and damages his over 60 quintals of onion loaded in two tractor-trolleys? He has been standing here for the past three days and he is nowhere near the mandi gates. He is apprehensive that once his onions become soggy and start rotting, the authorities won’t buy it. “I am hoping to sell the onions at around Rs 50,000; it will help me just pay off my loans, with enough left for by kids school and college fees.’

With monsoon likely to hit the state within the next two days according to the meteorology department, Sawalia’s predicament captures the hope and fear that thousands of farmers are facing as they are anxiously waiting their turn in the 65 purchasing centres throughout the state.

Some farmers like Naushad Khan (53) from a village in Berasia road got so fed up with the unending wait outside the mandi that he decided to sell his onions directly to the consumers in Gyaraso quarters – which is illegal – at Rs 8 per kg. However, he is being harassed by BMC who often shoo him away and also ask for bribes. “I am desperate. I have to sell the onions and go back home. I cannot wait this long as I have to prepare my fields for the Kharif crop.”

Read more: MP farmer protest: Death toll goes up to 17 after 2 more commit suicide

The lifeline given to farmers of Madhya Pradesh by the government’s decision to procure onions at the rate of 8 per kilogram might have given it a breather from the ongoing farmer’s agitation, but the actual relief to farmers still remains to be seen.

Though officials are not saying it loud but rotten onion won’t be purchased. Says P C Meena, agriculture production commissioner, “This is for you to understand. Who will buy rotten onions? But the onions we have purchased are our responsibility.”

But one thing is certain - the government is staring at an estimated loss of between Rs 500- 600 crores, according to those familiar with the development in the onion front, thanks to the lack of expertise by the procuring, storing and distributing agencies.

An official who did not want to be quoted said if we add the transportation cost of Rs 8 to 10 per kg, the cost of per kg of onion comes at Rs 18, and we are going to sell it at Rs 2, a clear loss of Rs 16 per kg.

Markfed, the onion procuring agency, managing director Dnyaneshwar Patil said that so far they have procured 3.6 lakh metric tonne, but they estimate that this figure will go up to at least 5 or even 6 lakh metric tonne. But that is still only 15 to 20% of the estimated bumper production of 34 lakh metric tonne this year in Madhya Pradesh.

Patil agrees that his agency and neither the State Civil Supplies department which has been given the task of storing, distributing and selling the onions has the expertise either to store or sell a perishable commodity like onion. And distributing it to all corners of the state to be sold through PDS shops at Rs 2 per kg will be a major challenge, he admits.

Hitesh Bajpai the chairman of the state civil supplies corporation knows that the government is staring at a huge loss.

“It would be wrong to say that we are fully prepared. We do not have enough capacity to store the onions which we are purchasing so we are trying to sell them though auction. This year our loss due to wastage might be more than last year when the government purchased onion worth Rs 62.8 crores. Our aim is to minimize this loss,” he candidly admits.

First Published: Jun 22, 2017 19:08 IST