Maharashtra’s onion traders continue their strike, to meet Marketing Minister on September 26

Traders have confirmed the involvement of NAFED in the retail market making it difficult for the private players to compete with the government body as they are selling onions at lower margins.

Updated - September 25, 2023 11:48 pm IST

Published - September 25, 2023 10:28 pm IST - Mumbai

Workers sort onions at the APMC Market, in Solapur. File.

Workers sort onions at the APMC Market, in Solapur. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

The stand-off between onion traders in Maharashtra’s Nashik district and the State government continued into its fifth day on Monday, causing significant disruptions in the auction of the key kitchen commodity in almost all the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs).

The traders in the wholesale markets at Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon in the district, among the largest in Asia, are adamant that the government rollback the export duty of 40% imposed on the bulbs, which will be effective until December 31. However, starting Monday, traders have halted the dispatching of previously purchased stock too, which is likely to impact the retail price not just in the Western State, but across the country.

“We have banned the auction since September 20 protesting the export duty hike, which will not only hinder the export of bulbs but also impact onions in transit, causing significant losses to farmers and traders,” Pravin Kadam of Nashik District Onion Traders Association (NDOTA) said.

Market sources indicate that under normal circumstances, transactions worth ₹35-₹40 crore occur daily in the district. With no auctions for over five days (starting September 20 and Sunday being a closed holiday for the market), the market has incurred an estimated loss of around ₹170 crore. However, the prices in retail markets of Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, and Nagpur remained stable at around ₹25 to ₹30 per kilogram, as supply didn’t affect much till Sunday.

The traders’ demands include the cancellation of export duty on onions, a 50% reduction in market fees, involvement of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India (NCCF) in auctions and a 50% subsidy in onion transportation costs.

Mr. Kadam said that their major concern is the involvement of NAFED in the retail market. “It is selling the onions at a low margin price in the retail market after lifting the stock from a few APMCs in the district. A private trader can’t compete with the government agency as they play around with taxpayers money,” he said. The NAFED continues to supply the onions in retail markets.

He also confirmed that the traders had stopped dispatching the already-procured stock. At present, only summer onions are available in the market.

Representatives of NDOTA are scheduled to meet Maharashtra Marketing Minister Abdul Sattar in Mumbai on Tuesday. They said that the government is not keen on addressing their concerns. “We are not expecting anything from tomorrow’s meeting as majority of the issues and demands should be addressed by the Centre, including export duty. Moreover, we are asking the government to inform us in advance about any major decision taken with regard to onions,” Mr. Kadam said.

On September 13, the office-bearers of NDOTA met Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Mr. Sattar and gave a representation to intervene and resolve the issue, he said. On September 18, when the market was opened, a total of 18,072 quintal of onions were auctioned at the Lasalgaon APMC at an average rate of ₹2,051 per quintal. The market remained closed on September 19 on account of Ganesh Chaturthi.

Faced with the administration’s threat of license suspension or cancellation if they didn’t end the strike, some traders voluntarily surrendered their trade licences on September 21.

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