‘Most of the time they are at the mercy of brokers and merchants’

Are farmers getting benefitted from the soaring prices of onion?

Onion prices have been on the rise for the last three months. This week (till Thursday), the price of Teligi onion variety and a local variety of onion at the Hubli Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (AMPC) yard ranged from Rs. 500 to Rs. 5,000 a quintal. According to market statistics, the average price of both the varieties ranged from Rs. 1,800 to Rs. 2,000 a quintal.

“Most of the time in such situations, irrespective of the market conditions, it is the brokers, merchants, retail traders, and vendors who make most of the profit,” district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) B.S. Soppin, who has been involved in several pro-farmer movements, said.

He said as farmers lack the knowledge about grading different types of onion, buyers and brokers form a cartel and deceive them.

“Even good quality onions are sometimes categorised as low-grade onion, and accordingly, a lower price is fixed. But eventually, the crop is sold at a price close to the day’s highest price,” he said.

According to Mr. Soppin, even retailers make a good profit. “Ultimately, the farmer, who toils in the field, makes the least profit while brokers, merchants and retailers walk away with a good margin without much effort,” he said.

In the Bangalore market, the average price of local and other varieties of onion, barring the Bengaluru Sanna variety, this week ranged from Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 4,875 a quintal.

The average price of Bengaluru Sanna ranged from Rs. 2,100 to Rs. 2,500 a quintal.

During the same period, the average retail price of onion ranged from Rs. 60 to Rs. 80 a kg.

For B.M. Hanasi, who took to farming after retiring from government service, the soaring onion prices is nothing short of a conspiracy. “It is good that farmers are getting over Rs. 2,000 a quintal. But they are at the mercy of brokers and merchants who have formed a cartel and have a monopoly. And it is they who make the most, whatever might be the situation,” he said.

According to Mr. Hanasi, the situation could be tackled easily if the administration intervenes. But no one wants to do it, he said. As a result, on the pretext of providing “a fair price” for farmers, others make profit, he said.

Farmers in rain-fed areas are harvesting onion early this year to get a better price. They are sure of the onion prices coming down in November when arrivals would peak at the Hubli market from Bijapur, Bagalkot, Dharwad and other districts where the crop is cultivated in rain-fed areas.

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