The Indian Government’s decision to impose a ban on onion exports is being questioned, with Maharashtra’s Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission Chairman Pasha Patel stating that it was based on incorrect data and unsubstantiated fears of a shortage in the market. 

Patel said the ban was imposed shortly after a government team visited Maharashtra in November 2023. He expressed concern over the lack of mechanism to accurately track onion cultivation data, including seed sales and sowing accuracy.

Traders in Nashik supported Patel’s views, noting that the Lasalgaon Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yard handles significant onion trade volumes, and Maharashtra contributes approximately 43 per cent of India’s onion production. Despite erratic rains damaging kharif onion crops over the past three years, traders in Nashik do not anticipate an immediate shortage of onions.

Farmers shifting

India consumes about 13 lakh tonnes of onions every month, with approximately 70 per cent of the annual supply coming from the rabi crop harvested between March and May. During June to September, when there is no onion harvest, stored rabi onions are released for consumption, leading to price hikes.

Some farmers in Nashik are moving away from onion cultivation due to fluctuating prices but that would not affect overall supply. Eknath Patil, a farmer, said, “The ban is unlikely to be lifted even after March 31, especially with the general elections approaching, as the government fears lower onion production due to reduced area coverage, particularly in Maharashtra”.