Onion price crash: Maharashtra farmers to protest next week unless government increases costs

Onion prices at Lasalgaon Mandi have fallen even below production cost after NAFED released stocks in the market

By Shagun
Published: Saturday 26 November 2022
Farmers at Lasalgaon are getting a meagre Rs 7-Rs 10 for a kilogram of onions on average. Photo credit: CSE

Onion farmers in Maharashtra will stage a protest next week if the state government does not increase the prices of the vegetable. Their threat comes in the wake of prices at Asia’s largest onion market crashing below production costs.

Farmers at Maharashtra’s Lasalgaon Mandi (wholesale market) in Nashik district stopped auctions and issued an eight-day ultimatum to the government.

“If the prices are not increased, we will dump the onions next week outside the state Secretariat,” Bharat Dighole, Maharashtra State Onion Grower’s Association, told Down To Earth.

The cost of onions at Lasalgaon Mandi reflects the price at all other Mandis across the country. Farmers at Lasalgaon are getting a meagre Rs 7-Rs 10 per kilogram (kg) on average. The cost to cultivate a kilogram of onions is Rs 22-Rs 25 on average.


Onion prices usually increase in November due to low availability as the last onion crop harvested in April gets over and the next crop still has some days to be harvested.

However, this time there is a steady supply of onions. One of the main reasons for this is a continuous release of onions in the market by NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited).

The cooperative bought some 250,000 tonnes of onions in the country as buffer stock, to stabilise prices and keep a lid on food inflation. However, this has hurt onion farmers, who are not getting a fair share of their crop due to the glut.

“After Diwali, the prices increased for a few days. One quintal was selling at Rs 2,800-Rs 3,000 and that is when NAFED released their stock and prices crashed. This time, from May till July, the government has bought more than the usual stock of 100,000-150,000 tonne,” Amol Darekar, a farmer from Nashik’s Vinchur village, told DTE.

The average retail price for onions in the country was at Rs 30.16, 22.63 per cent less than last year.

Yogesh Rayate, another onion farmer from the state, questioned the government policy.

“The government interferes when prices are high and farmers get a decent rate. It takes measures to reduce the prices for consumers by either going for export ban or releasing buffer stocks. Why can’t it take some measures when prices are meagre for farmers and they are running into losses?” he asked.

Rayate suggested that NAFED should also buy from farmers at a good rate when prices are down just like it buys for price stabilisation.

Onion is the main cash crop of Maharashtra. The state accounts for 35-40 per cent of its total production in the country. The next crop of onion was also expected to come in the market by December and farmers fear this will lead to a further spiralling down of prices.

The Union Ministry of Food Processing has a scheme called TOTAL. It was earlier known as TOP, short for ‘tomato, onion and potato’. It was later expanded to TOTAL to include several other vegetables.

TOTAL ensures a higher share of the consumer’s rupee to farmers. But so far, there has not been any visible progress on this front.

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