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As MP farmers rejoice, Maharashtra onion farmers yet to get last year’s relief

Maharashtra still await the grant of Rs100 per quintal announced by the state government in September last year following a free fall in onion prices.

While farmers in Madhya Pradesh rejoice over the decision of the Centre to procure around 2 lakh tonne crop after falling rates at Rs8 per kg, farmers in Maharashtra still await the grant of Rs100 per quintal announced by the state government in September last year following a free fall in onion prices. MP, the country’s second-largest onion grower, produces about 26-28 lakh tonne onion annually, while Maharashtra is the largest onion producing state.Wholesale prices of onion have fallen sharply below Rs6 per kg in MP due to the bumper crop during the late Kharif season of 2016-17.

Modal onion prices of onions in Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb, are currently at Rs550 per quintal with daily arrivals touching 16,000 quintal to 20,000 quintal. There has been a bumper crop this year and even after record exports of around 30 lakh tonne, onion rates are on the lower side, said Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC).

Holkar says farmers are no longer interested in seeking relief. “So many representations have been made. We met the authorities in Delhi after which the state government had agreed to provide relief which is yet to reach farmers. There is no question of approaching the Centre for any kind of aid when there has been no response to earlier representations,” he said.

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The Maharashtra government had announced the grant for the farmers who sold their produce in the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) from July 1 to August 31, 2016. There were several demands from the APMC representatives for an increase in the grant to at least Rs500 per quintal. As per market sources, proposals worth Rs45 crore are still pending with the government. In Pune APMC alone, around 4,145 proposals were sent to the government of which 2,847 proposals were considered eligible for the grant of Rs1.72 crore. About 20,000 farmers were then estimated to have sold nearly 3 lakh quintals in Lasalgaon market during the two months, making them eligible for payments of Rs3 crore.

Holkar said that nothing had come of the proposals. Holkar had then sent a representation to Maharashtra cooperation minister seeking a grant of Rs500 per quintal for farmers who sold their produce in distress during those couple of months. He had urged the minister to consider the minimum support price (MSP) at Rs1,500 to Rs2,000 per quintal for onion growers.

He said that the amount in the form of relief is also not very high but would be useful for farmers at the time of Kharif sowing. He said although onion could be stored, farmers from previous experience may not do so this time because of the losses. Farmers did not get good prices even after holding onto their stocks, he pointed out. Good rainfall has led a rise in the overall farm output across the country, bringing down prices of almost every agriculture commodity.

Last year in September, there were reports of around 8,000 tonne of onions, nearly 50% of the total 17,000 tonne produced in April and May, going waste. The Centre had procured 17,000 tonne of the summer onion crop at an average rate of Rs900 per quintal from farmers in Nashik. The buffer stock was to be used to stabilise onion prices in domestic market in case of scarcity. The buffer stock was kept in storage centres at various places at Pimpalgaon, Lasalgaon and Kalwan in the district. But continuous rain and high humidity level in July and early August spoiled the crop lying idle for nearly four months.