After massive crop damage, Maharashtra onion farmers stare at more losses as prices drop to all-time low

Farmers have decided to define a minimum selling price for selling onions at the APMC to counter losses  

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Wednesday 08 February 2023
Photo: iStock

Onion farmers in Maharashtra are facing losses as the selling price of the staple has dropped to an all-time low, hovering at Rs 9-11 per kilogram. The farmers have demanded the average price be increased at least to Rs 20-22 to overcome the expenses in growing the produce.

Bharat Dighole, state president of the Onion Growers’ Association, told Down To Earth that the rates have remained lowest for at least five years and that the government should frame a policy on increasing exports to enable farmers earn better rates on the produce.

The Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Nashik, Maharashtra is Asia’s biggest market for onions. 

“The central government is not allowing farmers to sell onions abroad to receive better market rates. But when the produce is in short supply, it leads to an increase in rates. That is when the government quickly imports the onions to lower the prices,” he alleged.

The farmers have already suffered heavy losses due to excessive and erratic rainfall from June-October last year, Dighole said. “Farmers across the state have lost 30 per cent of their crops. Moreover, the input expenses of the crops have increased. The cost of seeds, fertilisers and chemical insecticides and pesticides have almost doubled in the past two years.”

Growing the onion crop is not as lucrative as before due to the production expenses, he added. “We used to sell onions at Rs 9 and Rs 11 per kilogram about 10 years ago. How can those rates be profitable or even recover our input costs compared to the current inflation?”  

These rates have continued for at least five years and resulted only in increased debts, Sandip Magar, a farmer from Vakhari village from Deola taluka in Nashik, said. “We have been selling onions at similar rates for the past few years and run into losses. My debts have increased by 20 per cent.”

A rate of at least Rs 25-30 per kilogram should be fixed for farmers to at least recover the input costs, Magar said. “The unseasonal rains have resulted in losses and may lead to a further drop in prices. It will only add to the economic woes of farmers,” he added.

Onions have not become cheaper for buyers despite farmers selling them at such low prices. “It is the middlemen who have profited from this.”

Dighole said to counter the losses, farmers have decided to define a minimum selling price for selling their produce to the APMC.

“The existing system for onion auction is unfair towards the growers and does not benefit them as deserved. The farmers, through their association Maharashtra Rajya Kanda Utpadak Sanghatana, have decided to bring a uniform selling system in the market,” he said. 

Come April, the farmers would experiment to sell onions at a decided rate in the market, Dighole said. “We will target metro cities to ensure that such losses are not incurred by the farmer. This will help farmers to ensure that at least the input costs are recovered. The rates will also be decided according to the size and quality of onions,” he said.

The president of the onion farmers body said Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to double farmers’ income after he came to power, but instead only the production costs have doubled and profits are nowhere close.

“This is the reason we have decided to take matters in our hands and overcome the issue. Talks across districts in Maharashtra are underway to bring onion growing farmers to consensus and reach an agreement,” he said.

He assured that no protest, blockages or requisitions to the state government will be made as it may not yield any results. “We will directly decide the rates unanimously and protect onion farmers,” Dighole said.

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