Even as onion farmers stopped trading at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee’s (APMC) Nashik market, the Centre said it is in touch with the Maharashtra Government to diffuse the protests that emerged soon after the announcement to impose 40% duty on onion exports.
Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal said the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Limited (NCCF) and the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) have started procuring onions from farmers at a “historically high” rate of ₹2,410 per quintal.
Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, Mr. Goyal said the Centre is taking decisions in the interest of farmers and consumers, and ensures a balance between these interests. He said both farmers and consumers are invaluable for the Union government.
He said that in the last year too, when onion farmers were not able to get adequate prices, the Centre had intervened and increased the buffer stock, and used NCCF and NAFED for procurement to ensure better prices. “This year too, three lakh metric tonne (LMT) has been procured so far and the farmers have got good prices,” Mr. Goyal said.
He said the decision to impose 40% export duty on onions was taken when retail prices in the domestic market increased. He said that along with this decision, the Centre also decided to procure five LMT of onions. “NCCF and NAFED have opened centres at various places. ₹2,410 is a historically high rate for a quintal for onions that will match NCCF’s quality norms,” he said.
Mr. Goyal said both the agencies have started selling onions at a subsidised rate of ₹25 since Monday.
He cautioned farmers against political opponents. “Some political opponents have been trying to present a wrong picture. I would urge all farmers in onion producing States to not worry and indulge in any panic selling. NCCF and NAFED have been directed to procure onions from farmers,” Mr. Goyal added.
“Farmers will not have to worry about anything,” he said.
Mr. Goyal said he was in continuous dialogue with Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar. Union Minister of State for Health Bharti Pawar is also in touch with local people on the issue.
Various farmers’ organisations, and the Opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) faction, have questioned the Centre’s decision to impose 40% duty on onion exports. In Nashik, one of the largest wholesale markets for onions, farmers have said they will indefinitely stop trading till the Centre revoked the decision.