The Maharashtra State Onion Producer Farmer Organisation is launching onion markets in key cities like Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur to combat the alleged “exploitation” of farmers at the APMCs and enable direct sales of onions to consumers.

Bharat Dighole, President of the organisation, announced that these markets would commence operations after Diwali and would be under the organisation’s control. Dighole emphasised that farmers have the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the State, thus obviating the need for government permission to establish these markets. He underscored that farmers grow onions for consumers, not APMCs, and they will determine the produce’s price, minimising the role of intermediaries between farmers and consumers.

State onion growers have resolved not to bring their produce to the APMCs and private mandis. Instead, they will exclusively sell their onions in their own markets, with APMC traders, retail traders, and exporters having the option to purchase the produce from these farmers’ markets.

The first market will come up in Pune and farmers are holding meetings to discuss the details of establishing a chain of markets across the State.

The root of the issue

Over the past two years, onion farmers in the State have expressed their dissatisfaction with the functioning of APMCs, including Lasalgaon, recognised as Asia’s largest onion market. Farmers have alleged that Lasalgaon APMC has done little to improve returns for farmers and establish a benchmark for enhanced prices in the regional commodity market. Founded on April 1, 1947, Lasalgaon APMC handles substantial trade volumes, ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 tonnes of onions.

Traders in Lasalgaon argue that India’s daily demand for onions falls within the range of 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes, with the crop’s pricing being contingent upon its arrival in the market. In contrast, farmers dispute this claim, contending that traders wield significant influence over market prices by manipulating the supply of onion stocks.

Market control

The Lasalgaon market stands as the central onion trading hub in India, and local farmers assert that around 125 primary traders from 25 families hold trading licenses and maintain a firm grip on the market. Farmers claim that the APMC refrains from issuing new licenses without the consent of these established traders.

A study conducted by the Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Centre at the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bengaluru had earlier revealed that a select group of influential traders, boasting extensive networks, played a substantial role in hoarding onions and artificially driving up prices.