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As onion trade resumes in Nashik, farmers stop auctions with demands for higher rates

Onion auctions at wholesale markets in Maharashtra’s Nashik district were suspended Thursday after farmers protested insisting on a minimum rate of Rs 2,410 per quintal, declared by the National Cooperative Agricultural Marketing Federation, for their produce.

It was the first day of the auction after traders and commission agents called off their three-day strike held in protest against the 40 per cent export duty imposed on onions by the central government.

Balasaheb Kshirsagar, chairman of the wholesale market at Lasalgaon in Niphad taluka, said the auction was halted when farmers protested against a price quoted by traders.

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“They wanted a NAFED procurement centre at Lasalgaon. A procurement centre has been sanctioned but it is yet to start operation,” he added.

Traders whom The Indian Express spoke to said it was not possible to buy onion at a flat rate given the quality variation of the produce brought to the markets. When the auction opened on Thursday, onion was traded at Rs 2,000-2,600 per quintal.

“Farmers protested and suspended the auction in Lasalgaon, Pimpalgaon, Satana, Umrana and other places,” said a trader who operates out of the Lasalgaon market.

Earlier this week, the central government announced procurement of 2 lakh tonnes of onion from Nashik and Ahmednagar after traders and commission agents decided to go on a strike. For Nashik, the price quoted by NAFED is Rs 2,410.75 per quintal. The procurement is to be held in seven districts—Nashik, Ahmednagar, Beed, Osmanabad, Dhule, Pune and Aurangabad.

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NAFED, which has managed to restart 13 centres in Nashik, procured 500 tonnes of onion till Wednesday.

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Bharat Dighole, president of the Onion Growers Association, said that in a meeting with the district collector, farmers had demanded that NAFED should be a party to the trade in the market. “If NAFED enters the markets, farmers will be assured of better prices, but separate procurement centres for NAFED defeats the purpose,” he said.

Dighole also said that till the time their demand was agreed to, the farmers would not allow onion auctions in Nashik.

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Onion prices in the country have soared owing to the double whammy of lower-than-expected acreage and quality issues. Unseasonal rains and hailstorms in March and April affected the quality of stored onion. Many farmers had to resort to distress sale when prices collapsed in April and May.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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