Why should onion farmers settle for meagre profits, asks Pune farmer

Since soaring rates of onions is the talk of the town, MiD DAY decided to hear of the price hike -- alarming to buyers -- straight from the horse’s mouth, in this case Shambaji Shewari, a farmer from Vadgaon Maval in Pune district.

Root of the problem: Onions are a four-month crop, but the last harvest did not get sufficient water to grow, owing to the poor rains last year, Shewari explained.

Shewari comes to the Vashi market every morning to deliver his produce and ensures he gets a good price for the product of his labour, before winding his way back home.

Not all farmers are known to come all the way to the market and acquire the produce themselves, but Shewari is an exception. A farmer in his late 50s, he believes that the hue and cry over the price of onions is uncalled for.

“After spending such a lot of money on getting the produce ready, why are we expected to settle for meagre profits? The cost of everything from manure to fertilizers and pesticides has increased tremendously. These days it is very difficult to get someone to work on the fields. All the people in the villages want to come to the city to work as they believe there is big money here. In the bargain, farming is no longer as easy as it once was,” says Shewari who had brought 25 bags of onions with him yesterday, weighting close to a tonne.

We asked him if an artificial demand had been created in the market to hike prices, but he denied it vehemently. The farmer remembers the price of onions going up higher than the current price three years ago.

“Three years back, the price went up to Rs 70. This phase will not last long, as the new produce would enter the market in the first week of September,” said Shewari, who owns two-and-a-half acres of land on which he cultivates a few other vegetables, other than onions.

Shewari claimed that he gets the same rate for his produce in the Pune market as well, but he has stopped sending his onion produce to the city. “My village is very close to the highway and there are lots of trucks which keep coming to Mumbai. So I don’t need to pay much for transportation. When I send the produce to the markets in Pune, they create a lot of fuss over transport costs,” said Shewari.

Onions are a four-month crop, but the last yield did not get sufficient water to grow owing to the poor rains last year, Shewari said.

“A lot of my produce got spoilt in the godown where I had stored it since April. The same thing happened to many other farmers, hence the shortage,” he said.

Shewari said that a farmer’s life is one of hard physical labour, which is also responsible for a shorter life span of those in the occupation.

Between November and April, Shewari grew five tonnes of produce on his farm and sent it to the Vashi APMC.

Margin of profit
Shewari spends Rs 40,000 on manure, pesticides and fertilizers for each crop of onions. A good harvest yields about seven tonnes of produce, while a poor one yields three tonnes. Profit margins are maintained at around 10 per cent. Yesterday, he sold his produce at the wholesale rate of Rs 50 per kilo. 

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