Protesting against the Centre’s decision to impose a 40 per cent export duty on onions, traders and commission agents of Nashik, which has the largest wholesale market in onions in Asia, have decided to boycott onion trade from Monday.
At a meeting held at Lasalagon in Niphad taluka of Nashik Sunday, the Traders and Commission Agents Association took the call to boycott trade from Monday and have urged traders from other parts of the state to support their decision.
On Saturday, the central government imposed an export duty of 40 per cent on onions in order to reduce exports.The move comes as wholesale and retail onion prices see a steady rise in view of shortage of crop and quality issues with the stored crop. During the meeting, traders, commission agents and farmer representatives protested against the decision.
The traders said the central government had turned a blind eye towards the problem of onion traders when the bulb was being sold at as low as Rs 500-600/quintal. “Quality concerns had forced farmers to sell their onions at throw away prices. Our estimates say that 40 per cent of the stored onion had quality issues which led them to be sold at throw away prices,” said a trader.
The central government’s decision to put the brakes on exports comes at a time when wholesale prices have shot up in various markets.
At Lasalgaon’s market the bulb which was selling at Rs 1,000-1,100/quintal had crossed the Rs 2,200-2,300/quintal mark from the start of August. This was mostly due to lower than expected quantity in storage and arrival. In most retail markets, onions were selling at Rs 30-35/kg.
Jaydutt Holkar, director of the Mumbai Agricultural Produce Market Committee(APMC), who was the former chairman of the Lasalgaon APMC – the largest onion market in the country, has urged all market committees in the state to boycott trade on Monday to support the onion farmers.
“This decision of the central government is wrong,” he said. Onion growers in Nashik, generally take three crops- kharif (sown in June/July and harvested post October), late kharif (sown in September -October and harvested post December) and rabi (sown in December and harvested post March).
The rabi onion due to its low moisture content is stored by farmers in on field storage structures called ‘Kanda chawl’ to prevent moisture ingress.
The rabi onion is the most important crop as it feeds the market before the arrival of the new crop. However farmers have complained of lower crop and storage. The present price rise is due to the combined effect of the same.
Data from the Agricultural Produce Export Promotion Development Authority (APEDA) shows in the fiscal of 2022-23 India had exported 25.25 lakh tonnes of the bulb, compared to the 15.37 lakh tonnes in 2021-22 and 15.78 lakh tonnes of 2020-21.
Higher demand for Indian onions especially from Bangladesh, the Middle East has seen exporters reporting better returns from the overseas market.
Most of the exports happened in the first two quarters of the last fiscal when quality concerns had not kicked in.