Nashik farmers halt biz as onion prices drop to Rs 9.5

Angry farmers in Pimpalgaon Baswant, the biggest onion trading market in Nashik after Lasalgaon, brought business to a complete halt on Monday after average wholesale prices fell to R950 per quintal.

Last week, farmers had threatened to disrupt markets if prices fell below the R1,000-per quintal mark.

Farmers blocked the Mumbai-Agra highway in the morning, halting traffic for the entire day. Their demands are removal of the minimum export price (MEP) and higher onion prices.

Onion auctions were resumed after 4 pm after Diliprao Bankar, MLA and chairman, Pimpalgaon Baswant Agriculture Produce Market Committee intervened and told farmers that the issue would be taken up with both the state and central governments. Around 1,300 tractor-loads of onions had arrived at the Pimpalgaon market on Monday. Onion prices were in the range of R700-1,100 per quintal and the average price worked out to R950 per quintal, drawing the ire of

the farmers. Prices were hiked to R1,100 per quintal in the evening after Bankar's intervention and auctioning was resumed.

Bankar said the centre should intervene and scrap MEP to encourage exports. He said he expected a decision on the reduction in MEP any time now, but in case that didn't happen, a meeting of the chairmen of all the 15 APMCs will be held over the next 2-3 days to chalk out an action plan for an indefinite agitation at Nashik. He expected the MEP to be dropped to $ 850 per tonne.

"Nafed has recommended an MEP of $400 per tonne and the file is currently with the union minister of commerce Anand Sharma. A decision is expected anytime," CB Holkar, member of board, Nafed, told FE.

"FOB rates in all other countries, including Pakistan and China, are in the range of $450-$500 per tonne, which is much lower than prices of Indian onion," Holkar pointed out. Last month, the government had hiked onion MEP to $1,150 per tonne from $900 per tonne to curb shipments of the agricultural commodity. Around 85,000 tonne of onion was exported in October. Bankar said

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