Onion farmers in Maharashtra's Nashik district staged a protest by blocking the Mumbai-Agra Highway and bringing auctions to a standstill in wholesale markets.
The demonstration was held in response to the Centre's announcement of a ban on the export of onions, effective until March 31, 2024, with the objective of bolstering domestic availability and controlling prices.
The disruption extended to onion markets in Lasalgaon, Chandwad, Nandgaon, Dindori, Yeola, Umarane, and other locations in Nashik district, where auctions were halted on Friday.
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While auctions were not held at the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), they proceeded at the Vinchur and Niphad sub-committees of Lasalgaon APMC.
Approximately 600 vehicles loaded with onions arrived at Vinchur on Friday, with prices ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,300 per quintal and an average of Rs 2,700 per quintal, according to officials. Concurrently, hundreds of cultivators congregated on the Mumbai-Agra Highway, employing tractors to block the road at three locations for a period.
Rasta rokos, or roadblocks, were also staged at Jaikheda, Chandwad, Umarane, Nandgaon, and Mungse in Malegaon. The Nashik police intervened, appealing to protestors who subsequently dispersed peacefully without the use of force.
Lasalgaon APMC Chairperson Balasaheb Kshirsagar voiced dissatisfaction with the Centre's decision, asserting that it was not in favor of farmers. He argued that onion prices had not seen a significant rise and had, in fact, decreased over the past five to six days. Kshirsagar emphasized the potential losses to farmers and demanded a rollback of the export ban.
Presently, onion prices range between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200 per quintal, although some are selling at Rs 3,000 per quintal. Kshirsagar blamed middlemen for the price hikes and suggested a direct government role in onion sales, eliminating intermediaries.
Kiran Darade, a protesting farmer in Yeola, criticized the Union government for imposing the export ban without prior notice or justification. Darade highlighted the losses suffered by farmers due to adverse weather conditions and urged a swift revocation of the ban.
In October, the Centre had initiated the sale of buffer onion stock at a subsidized rate of Rs 25 per kg in retail markets to alleviate consumer burdens.
To further control prices, a minimum export price (MEP) of USD 800 per tonne was imposed on onion exports from October 28 to December 31. Additionally, a 40 per cent export duty on onions was enforced until December 31 as part of broader efforts to stabilize onion prices. (With inputs from agencies)