Hoarding or Nature’s fury? Why onion prices in Lasalgaon continue to soar

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on October 20, 2020

Traders, farmers say rains have damaged new crops; APMC officials counter farmers are holding back stock on hopes of higher prices

With the supply of onion in the wholesale market on the decline, onion prices are soaring at Lasalgaon, Asia’s biggest onion market. At many places, onion prices have touched ₹8,000 per quintal. Traders say that retail prices would climb fast if a shortage of onion continues in the wholesale market. Traders and farmers say that relentless rains have damaged new crops in the fields, and have stored the onion. APMC officials however, say that farmers are not bringing onion to the market expecting higher prices; they say traders are holding back the stock.

On Monday, the average onion price crossed ₹6,891 per quintal at Lasalgaon. On Tuesday morning, the bulb crop quoted at ₹6,900 here. In Pimpalgaon Baswant, the rate was ₹7,971 per quintal, while in the Abhona market it touched ₹8,800 on Monday. On Tuesday, the rates continued to rule on the higher side.

Bharat Dighole, President, Maharashtra State Onion Growers’ Association, said that onion prices would continue to rise as there is a shortage of onion in the market. “The early crop in Nashik, Ahmednagar, and Solapur in Maharashtra have been damaged by rains. Same is the situation in the southern States. The onion stored in chawls (storages) at Nashik is damaged due to rains and humidity,” he added.

According to Dighole, traders are not hoarding onion and the government must not take any steps to import onion as that would directly affect farmers who are already in distress.

However, a senior official at Lasalgaon APMC told BusinessLine that farmers and traders have joined hands to ensure that onion prices go up. “Farmers are not bringing storage onion to the market and traders are holding back the stock. This was the reason the IT department had raided 10 major traders at Nashik who control about 80 per cent of onion trading in the region,” said the official.

Nanasaheb Patil, a farmer, and director of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), told BusinessLine that on an average about 15,000-20,000 quintal s of the bulb is brought to the Lasalgaon market daily. “One has to understand that it is simply impossible to control or hike onion prices by hoarding. Nobody can predict the onion market as it is too huge to be controlled by a few traders and farmers,” he said.

According to traders, reopening of hotels and restaurants has added to the demand for onion. Meanwhile, in parts of Mumbai and other major cities in Maharashtra, onion was retailing at ₹70-90 per kg.

Published on October 20, 2020

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