Onion traders from Nashik surrender licences over demand to roll back 40% export duty

Fifteen APMCs from the district are responsible for daily trade worth worth Rs 30-40 crore

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Thursday 21 September 2023
Photo: iStock__

Talks between the Nashik district administration and Maharashtra government with the onion traders failed as an indefinite strike declared by the latter entered its third day.

About 1,000 onion traders from 15 Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) of Nashik district in Maharashtra called for a strike against the state government’s decision of imposing 40 per cent export duty on onions and government agencies selling onions at subsidised rates.

Two central agencies — National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Limited (NCCF) — have been selling buffer stock in the wholesale market at subsidised rates, affecting traders.

Read more: No traders, onion farmers in Maharashtra to directly sell produce in markets

District collector Jalaj Sharma and guardian minister Dada Bhuse convened a meeting with the traders to resolve the issue and convince them to resume the auction, but failed.

The district administration on September 20 even issued directives to the traders to resume auctions and instructed the managements of APMCs to take due measures and even issue licences to new traders willing to participate in auctions. 

It also warned of legal action of cancelling the licences of traders if they refuse to resume the auction. 

However, the matter escalated further as all traders surrendered their licenses to their respective APMCs.

“Talks have failed today and we decided to surrender our licences as we cannot continue doing business in losses,” Pravin Kadam, director of Lasalgaon APMC, Asia’s biggest largest wholesale onion market, told Down To Earth (DTE).

Kadam explained that traders can’t compete with government agencies’ rates. “About five days ago, the wholesale rate was between Rs 18 and Rs 22 per kilogramme. Including the packaging, transport, loading and unloading costs the cost increased to Rs 26 per kg,” he said.

However, the Delhi market is selling onions at Rs 27 per kg. “How can we afford to sell at such a price by transporting onions to Delhi from Maharashtra? The government can cut the cost of onions to sell produce using tax money. How can we sell onions at a loss?” Kadam asked. 

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

He clarified that the traders have not shut down the market. “The government is accusing us of being adamant and closing the market. But we are not conducting business voluntarily. Anyone else who wants to continue may do so,” he said. 

Each day, 15 APMCs contribute to a trade worth Rs 30-40 crore. On average, about 1.5 to 1.75 lakh quintals of onions are traded in these APMCs, Kadam informed. 

A meeting with the state marketing minister, Abdul Sattar, is scheduled to be held on September 26. However the traders decided to start the strike before any discussions could take place during the meeting.  

Nandkumar Daga, another trader, said the decision to continue the strike has been taken as the government previously assured that the export duty would be rolled back.

“No decision has been taken in that direction till date. Our fight is with the central government. There is no reason for the government to intervene and crash the market price,” he said.

Farmers are suffering in the process as they are unable to sell their produce.

Bharat Dighole, president of the Maharashtra onion growers’ association, said the farmers will be heavily affected by the strike. “Once the auction resumes, there will be many farmers rushing to sell their onions after a long wait. The sudden increase of massive supply will further result in crashing the price of onions,” he said.

Read more: Maharashtra onion crisis: Farmers bearing the brunt of low demand, poor export

The consumer or common citizen is unlikely to be affected by the chaos as the government will continue to sell onions at subsidised rates, he further said.

Only onion traders from Nashik district are on strike and auctions in other parts of the state continue to function. “If they want to pressure the government, all the traders must go on a strike in unison and hoard their stocks,” Dighole told DTE.

Daga said a meeting would be held between the onion traders and APMC directors on September 22 to chart the next course of the strike. 

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