The issuance of new licence to an “outsider” has hit the onion trade in Lasalgaon’s Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Nashik, with the local traders association boycotting auction of onions for the last five days.
On an average, the market sees the arrival of 3500-4000 quintals of onion daily and absence of trading has resulted in a daily loss of more than Rs 1 crore.
Although Nanasaheb Patil, president of Lasalgaon’s APMC, said he was hopeful of the trade resuming on Monday, there are apprehensions that onion prices might shoot up in North India if the strike continues.
The participation of Mahendra Kamble, a Mumbai-based trader, in the auction process last Monday had angered the Lasalgaon Traders Association (LTA), which has halted the auction of onions since then.
LTA president Nanduseth Dhaga said that as per convention, only members of their association could participate in trading and outsiders were not allowed. “The APMC might want to go by its law book, but across APMCs, only members of the traders association are allowed to trade. Sudden change in policy will not be allowed,” he said.
There are over 227 members of the LTA who trade in the market.
Patil said Kamble was issued licence well within rules and that the LTA was wrong in trying to stall the trader. “The APMC is the licensing authority and we have not done anything wrong by issuing licence. We have issued notices to the traders that if they fail to resume trading by Saturday, we will suspend their licences,” he said.
However, despite the deadline, the market remained closed Saturday since trading is traditionally suspended on a New Moon Day (Amavasya). The market will remain closed on Sunday too and a final decision by traders could come only by Monday.
The iron grip of traders on both the pricing and working of the markets has long been a contentious issue and farmers have often complained of unfair means adopted by the traders, most of whom enjoy political patronage.
Issuance of licence to traders outside the association, according to insiders, was one of the methods to break the cartel.
Kamble, who had participated in trading on Monday, said he had obtained the licence within the legal framework and hoped to continue to participate in the market without causing any controversy.
Patil said they were making arrangements to start the trade on Monday in any circumstances. “Even now in Lasalgaon, the trading in onion and cereals has stopped, but trading in vegetables is going on. We have asked farmers to take their produce in the Vinchure or Niphad sub markets so that they do not suffer loss,” he said.