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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Onion wars rage between the govt and farmers in Nashik

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Onion wars rage between the govt and farmers in Nashik

Updated on: 18 May,2024 07:35 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rajendra B. Aklekar |

mid-day investigates the turbulent onion markets in Pimpalgaon Baswant and Lasalgaon

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Onion wars rage between the govt and farmers in Nashik

An onion seller relaxing on sacks in a tempo near Priyadarshini Park, Nashik

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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Onion wars rage between the govt and farmers in Nashik

During the election season, mid-day visited markets of Pimpalgaon Baswant and Lasalgaon on the ground to find the economics of onion how the govt export ban spoilt the delicate balance and affected one and all, and now how onions are making all politicians cry.

A group of labourers at the main onion yard of the Pimpalgaon Baswant market have no time to look up. They have been working since early in the day to sort and pack the right kind of onions.

After they do that, the onions would be weighed, the sacks sewn together and then made ready for transport.

Malwadi village in Nashik has decided to boycott the elections if the onion crisis is not solved. Pics/Ashish RajeMalwadi village in Nashik has decided to boycott the elections if the onion crisis is not solved. Pics/Ashish Raje

They are readied as cargo to be sent to Uran where they are loaded onto ships for export. It is a hectic cycle of work and it continues in sync. One person stops and the entire supply chain halts. Everyone gets a per day charge and they earn extra money too depending on the work.

“All of them are excited now as they had been sitting jobless for a few months now. The government’s export ban has killed an entire industry and now that it is lifted, they do not want to leave any chance. A single ban and the entire supply chain goes for a toss,” said farmer Nivrutti Nhayarkar, who is the president of Baliraja Farmers Group from Wahegaon in Sal tehsil, Chandwad town.

“The onion market is like the share market. The ups and downs need to maintain a balance. One slip and things collapse. Farmers elect their representatives with great expectations, and they have only a modest expectation that the government should address the difficulties of farmers.  We are not in the race of any tenders, but only the proper rate for our crop grown with great effort,” he said.

“Onions are produced in large quantities in Nashik district, and farmers receive a specific price for their crop during a particular season each year. At that time, the government intervenes, often adopting policies that lower prices to benefit onion traders rather than farmers. Despite promises of fair prices for agricultural produce during elections, politicians shift their focus to traders once in power. As an agricultural country, our development and growth depend on the economic well-being of farmers, yet this is frequently overlooked,” said another farmer, Prakash Chavan of Shetkari Bahao Abhiyan, Maharashtra state.

“There are some basic questions that I need to ask. Modiji had announced in 2014 that he would double the agricultural income and give it a fair price. Has this been achieved and has the right guaranteed price been given? By banning onion exports, what did they achieve? Once opened up, there has been an export duty of $550. Why is that so?” another farmer said.

“Due to climate change and environmental reasons, we need to protect crops. Take for example, a simple pesticide. It has MRP plus GST. How can an average farmer afford it? Why is there GST on farm products? There is GST even on required fertilizers. I suggest a solution. Let’s not get into politics. Make onion available on PDS and it will solve all the woes. The onion will at least be picked and rationed off in urban areas,” Nhyarkar said.

“Onion is exported to countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Dubai, and other nations, and with the export ban for Maharashtra, the onion was piled up here. Even after lifting the export ban, there was a lack of communication, and the containers full of onion were stranded at JNPT port near Uran, incurring further losses,” another farmer said.

“While the buying and selling of onion and its transport to other states and countries, there is a bigger scam with a large number of changes in the paperwork to show transactions for the yield. Everyone is involved in it. We know how the market works and try to help poor farmers, but at the end of it, it is the poor who suffer losses,” says Pravin Kadam, director of Lasalgaon onion market with Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC).

Kadam says that there is a lot of improvement required in the workings of APMC which will help benefit farmers. “The farmers should get the right rates and they should be given priority,” he added.

Officials said the government's supreme priority remained to ensure enough domestic availability of onion at reasonable prices to consumers and the export are assessed on a case-to-case basis as per international requirements and domestic availability. 

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