The sob story of onion growers has spilled over to the new year. With prices touching rock bottom in markets across Maharashtra, traders are resorting to deep discounts, especially on old stock.
In markets around Nashik, which is the largest onion growing area in the State, the ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ (BOGO) strategy is being adopted to sell every quintal of old onion. These onions were harvested around March 2018.
A senior Central government official said that this is being done to not only liquidate stock but also to ensure no further slide in prices. Enquiries in the markets revealed that onions, which have reached the end of their shelf life, are being sold at ₹100 to ₹300 a quintal. “Once the transaction is complete, the buyers get an additional one quintal top-up for every quintal bought. The traders don’t want the message — that the price could breach the sub-₹1 per kg mark — to reach the retail market,” the official said.
The Chairman of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Lasalgaon, Jaydutt Holkar, told BusinessLine said that as prices have plunged due to a glut in supply, such fire sales are bound to happen. The farmers are also eager to get rid of their old stocks so that they could create storage space for the new onion crop, which would soon be ready for harvest.
The current glut in Maharashtra is being attributed to a delay in selling the produce harvested in March. Higher kharif acreage in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh has also led to the decline in demand from Maharashtra. The Maharashtra government had also made an attempt to salvage the situation by announcing a ₹2 per kg subsidy on the onion sold from November 1 till December 15, 2018, in the State. About three lakh farmers stand to gain up to a maximum of ₹40,000 from this decision.
Misled by media reports
Nitin Jain, a trader in Lasalgaon, said that in early January last year, both farmers and traders were misguided by reports in some regional language media, which said that in 2018, the price of onion will shoot up due to a decline in the sowing area to the tune of one lakh acre. Therefore, when the summer onions were harvested in March, the farmers hoarded it.
The summer onions have a long shelf life of about six months, but by October, they have to be sold and consumed.
The farmers kept holding on to their stocks thinking that the prices will rise, but that never happened.
At the time of going to press, State Agriculture Minister Chandrakant Patil was not available for comments.
However, in the neighbouring Karnataka, officials claimed that the government’s intervention through the price deficiency payment scheme (PDPS) has helped growers in the northern parts of the State.
Registered farmers who sold their produce in the APMCs are being paid up to ₹200 per quintal over the market price so that they get an assured price of ₹700 per quintal for good quality produce.
A cap of 75 quintals has been set for each farmer selling his produce under the PDPS scheme.
“We have no doubt to say that the scheme has made an impact,” said Prakash Kammaradi, chairman, Karnataka Agricultural Prices Commission (KAPC).
( With inputs from Vishwanath Kulkarni in Bengaluru )