The stalemate between the onion traders in Maharashtra’s Nashik district and the State Government continued into its second day on Thursday, further disrupting the auction of the kitchen staple.
Representatives of the Nashik District Onion Traders Association (NDOTA) held a joining meeting with Guardian Minister Dada Bhuse and the District Collector, which failed to provide a definitive solution, resulting in the continuation of the strike. The ban on auctions poses significant challenges for farmers and is likely to impact the retail price and supply of the bulbs across the country.
Faced with the administration’s threat of license suspension or cancellation if they didn’t end the strike, some traders voluntarily surrendered their trade licenses.
“Talks with Mr. Bhuse and Collector failed as they were not ready to address our demands immediately. Moreover, we took serious cognisance of Wednesday night orders of the Sub-Registrar for Co-operative Societies instructing all APMCs to suspend or cancel the licences of the striking traders and submit the Action Taken Report by September 21,” Pravin Kadam of NDOTA said.
A key catalyst for the strike was the recent decision by the Union government to raise export duty on onions by up to 40%, a measure set to remain in effect till December 31. The traders’ demands encompass 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.
“We are not opposing the auction of onions. The government can directly buy the bulbs from farmers through NAFED, but we are not going to take part unless our demands are met,” Mr. Kadam told The Hindu.
The issue at hand arises from onions procured by NAFED and NCCF, which are being sold at lower rates in the domestic wholesale market. The traders claim they purchased onions at higher prices but are now compelled to sell them at NAFED’s prescribed rates, making business under these conditions highly challenging.
“NAFED is selling the onions at a meagre price in the retail market across the country, after buying them from some Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in the district. We can’t compete with them. Let them waste the taxpayers money,” he said.
Balasaheb Darade, chairman of the Traders’ Association at Lasalgaon APMC, the largest wholesale onion market in Asia, affirmed, “Until the government discusses the export duty and our demands, market committees will remain closed, and traders will not participate in the auction process.”
On September 13, the office-bearers of NDOTA met Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Marketing Minister Abdul Sattar and gave a representation to intervene and resolve the issue, he said. They called for a meeting on September 26, where further deliberations concerning the ongoing strike will take place.
Sources said that Mr. Bhuse urged traders to present their side during the upcoming meeting and appealed to them not to halt onion auctions during Ganeshotsav, as doing so would inflict losses upon farmers. However, the traders remained resolute in their stance during the two-hour meeting, resulting in the current impasse.