Last week, the state government declared Rs 100 per quintal as subsidy for onion growers to help them over the current spell of low prices. However, this move might not help those farmers who by now have sustained heavy losses.
Over production and closure of export markets till December had crashed the onion markets across the state. Although the Central government had removed impediments in the way of exports in December, 2015, prices continued to remain low. In fact, it would be more than eight months since the price of onions has remained below the Rs 10 per kg mark. Matters had aggravated over the last two months with prices often falling below the Rs 4-5 per kg mark.
Farmers who have sold their produce between July 1 and August 31 are eligible for the subsidy. The market committees had been asked to send out the lists of such eligible farmers along with the subsidy amount they would receive.
Jaydutt Holkar, chairman of Lasalgaon Market Committee in Nashik district, said that in the given time period, at last two lakh 79,000 quintals were traded in the market by 20,595 farmers. “Calculations done by the market committee shows that the total subsidy amount eligible for this market would be at least Rs 3 crore,” he said.
However, Holkar said this was too little too late for the farmers. The produce, which was traded during the time period, was the rabi onion which matures in March-April. The cost of harvest of rabi onion is around Rs 5-6 per kg but storage and transport add more to the cost taking the final figure to at least Rs 9 per kg. Modal price of onion for July and August has hovered between Rs 6-7 per kg so the subsidy will not even cover the production cost for farmers. In fact, farmers will continue to incur losses.
Kharif sowing this year has seen a 40 per cent slide across the country, with Maharashtra reporting the largest shortfall. All eyes will be on the late kharif and rabi sowing which will determine the price of onion for the next year. RP Gupta, director of the Nashik-based National Horticulture and Research Development Foundation (NHRDF), opined there would be a slight rise in prices after September. “However, with 40 per cent of the stored onions sold, there would not be any shortage till November and by then the new crop will arrive in the market,” he said.