The onion glut and the government inaction a big worry for farmers!
Lasalgaon, 45 km from Nasik is, as everyone knows, India’s largest onion market and everyday hundreds of Lorries proceed towards the market complex there. There ensues bidding for price fixation. The story is old and told many times and everyone also knows how the prices are manipulated by traders and how the price fluctuations, rise and fall, is now, even now we have to correct is, a routine and the many overdue corrections and new steps to regulate the onion prices on rational lines and also ensure a fair price to farmers.
All attention and news breaks are only, so far, only about the rise in onion prices for urban consumers, the middle and the vocal classes.
Not for the voiceless, the helpless and also the most exploited farmers, the producers. How long this sort of exploitation and injustice to go on?
Only the Modi government and the new ministers and experts who operate the agri ministry must answer. As we can all see for themselves there is only deadly silence and inaction, sorry to say so, prevails.
Right now, at Lasalgaon, there is a severe glut in onion supplies. There is for long this criticism that traders form a cartel and they fix the prices and there are other middlemen who also indulge in price manipulation. Money and political; clout, says observers, play roles.
Yes, all this has been said already and yet there is no breakthrough news about how the new government hopes to put in place a new mechanism.
This year’s price, says NAFED, the critical marketing federation, would be Rs.Rs.3,000 to Rs.4,000/ql-which didn’t happen owing to rise in production, and almost the supply doubled this year. The ridiculous low was 5 paise for a kg! A Minister for Co-Operation Subhash Deshmukh says his onion crop is rotting! Onion cultivation is very traditional, this year the crop and its output almost doubled! So, the excess supplies and price fall.
But the whole issue here is how to ensure a stable onion price and what are the urgent infrastructure steps to be taken. We have no direct knowledge of the ground realities.
But in principle, in these days of revolutionary agri, infrastructure tech, we must be able to construct enough godowns to stock the oversupply in cold storage facilities. Why this is not done?
There must be either the Chief Minister or the minister concerned to speak out and ensure there is some calming and stabilising news coming out of the Mantralaya.
The government’s first step was to raise the Minimum Export Price(MEP) to $ 1,150/MT. But then the higher price is more than needed to sell competitively at the export markets. “There is no consistency in our approach towards onion exports” says Mr.Patil of the NAFED.
One more reason pointed out here is that Indian exporters don’t ensure guaranteed supply and prices. So, importers over the years we believe have turned elsewhere, to Pakistan and China. China is the world’s largest producer of onions, second comes India. Iran also a big producer and yet we have to ensure that we become reliable exporters.
Patil says further that the Union government is keen to serve the urban consumers and in this process the country lost its status as a reliable onion exporter nation. So, one simple insight emerges.
How to build up a long-term, why, even a mid-turn export strategy of improving our stocking capabilities. There seems no other short-cut. Also, we hear often that onion has become today not just an agricultural commodity but also a political tool.
It is great pity the issue has been reduced to this level of cheap politics. We are not here to provide any solution, so simply.
But common sense says that we have to decentralise the onion trade and also give some state level export organisations and also engage some corporate in the exporting of this heavily serious, farmers-related common agriculture commodity.
Blaming the governments, politicians is an easy way out, But such a mindset is plainly irresponsible. There must be a way out. Some structure like amul milk marketing and also some export consortium or some private-public participation must be worked out.
The trade minister Ms.Nirmala Seetharaman must take some steps.
Indian trade bodies also can help with ideas. Indian agriculture is now thriving owing to various factors.
There is dynamism in the agri sector, world trade scene is also changing.
Please come out with some positive steps and relieve the distress situation in which onion farmers thrown into.