Tears over onions

With reference to the news report ‘Traders stay away from onion auctions at Lasalgaon’ (October 27), one fails to comprehend the rationale behind the traders’ reported refusal to ‘participate’ in the auction at the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee, protesting against the Centre’s decision to impose stock limits of 25 tonnes on wholesalers and two tonnes on retailers till December 31.

Why are the traders ‘exploiting’ the supply-demand gap is an annual phenomenon? Why do the speculators, hoarders, commission agents and traders dealing with this common man’s staple food item, join hands to ‘reap the rich financial harvest’ so often?

The government this year too has woken up after the damage has been done as retail prices of onion are hovering at around ₹100/kg. While the AP government deserves kudos for making onions available at ₹35 per kg in the State, why cannot other States take similar consumer-friendly measures?

SK Gupta

New Delhi

Onion prices have been skyrocketing over the weeks hitting the poor and middle class sections hard. While the South-West monsoon season has recorded surplus rainfall in the country, the extended monsoon rains through October severely damaged the harvest-ready kharif onions in the ‘onion-major’ States of Karnataka and Maharashtra, resulting in the shortage of the bulb. With heavy downpours, farmers were unable to transplant even late-kharif onion with nurseries getting flooded.

The most prudent way to handle production fluctuations lies in not in banning exports or imposing stockholding limits or forcing cold storage farmers to release onions deposited with them. It is time the government focusses on creating a buffer stock for onion, edible oil and sugar to enable non-distortive marketing intervention. There should be no delay in formulating a price stabilisation strategy for onions.

M Jeyaram

Sholavandan (TN)

Relief for retail borrowers

With reference to the report ‘What borrowers need to know about compound interest waiver’, it is noteworthy that at last retail borrowers are at least being benefited. But the million-dollar question is when will the government compensate banks of this sum of ₹5,000 -6,000 crore as SBI has become the nodal agency.

So it should ideally be a win-win situation for both retail borrowers and banks as the latter should not be made to wait endlessly as even a single day’s delay will adversely impact them. Also, there is a lot of paper work involved for banks to work out each borrower’s refund amount reconciling with CIBIL. So, it is going to be a tough task for the bankers as well.

Bal Govind


Farm reforms imbroglio

With reference to the editorial ‘Political harvest’ (October 27), no amount of technological change or fine-tuning of subsidy mechanism can bring about rural development.

For that to happen we need to reform the institutional structure linking the producer and the consumer, through farmers’ organisations owned and managed by them.

True development of farmers would mean placing in their hands, the requisite instruments for it. Agriculture policy formulation in every farm-oriented nation is buffeted by political pressures. Our agro marketing policy is of 2003 vintage and yet today there is wide divergence between Centre, States and farmers.

Policy must evolve upwards from the field to the government departments, not the other way round.

Indonesia had great success with its ‘Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture (PISAgro)’ model of farmer mentorship, wherein the key to success lay in the empowerment of farming groups through corporate support in technology, training, seeding and the funnelling of funds from the government. It started with 85,000 smallholder farmers with a plan to reach three million in three years and has been successful.

R Narayanan

Navi Mumbai

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