The US and Japan have dragged India to the World Trade Organization over the frequent ban it imposes on onion exports. Both countries have alleged that the export ban without prior notice create problems for importing countries.

This, in turn, has resulted in Maharashtra onion growers demanding that the Centre draft a comprehensive policy on the import and export of onion, instead of taking ad hoc decisions.

“ India is second largest onion producer country, and still we don’t have concrete onion export policy. Onion growers have suffered heavy losses due to the government’s erratic ban on onion exports. Now with the issue of export ban raised in WTO, the central government must decide on the concrete export and import policy,” said President of Maharashtra State Onion Growers' Association, Bharat Dighole, while speaking to BusinessLine .

Read also: Curbs on export of onions to go from January 1

He added that onion export is one of the main resources for the government to earn foreign currency. The government must help onion farmers and traders maintain a hold on the international market. Dighole supported the demand made by the US and Japan India should opt for an export quota which would continue export of the bulb crop.

Decline in export earnings

A four-month ban on shipments and decline in demand due to the Covid pandemic resulted in a decrease in onion export earnings to a six-year-low during the 2020-21 fiscal. Exports earnings fell by about nine per cent to ₹2,107 crore from a high of ₹4,651 crore in 2016-17.

Read more: Onion export earnings down at 6-year-low

According to Lasalgaon based onion trader Nitin Jain, a concrete export policy will assure farmers, traders and importing nations. He added that farmers and traders suffer losses, but also the international market where Indian onion is popular is looking for options. He added that Pakistan has started eating up into Indian onion’s share in the Gulf market in the last couple of years.

In the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture meeting held in March, this year members questioned India on its continued restrictions concerning imports of pulses, wheat stockpiling, short-term crop loans, export subsidies to skim milk powder, an export ban on onions, and remission of duties and taxes on exported products.