A 65 per cent dip from the standard sowing activity was reported from the onion belt till the first week of January. Low prices in the previous season and drought have taken their toll on the ongoing sowing of rabi onion. Of the 2.55 lakh hectares of sowing reported normally, only 89,936.2 hectares of sowing has been reported.
Officials from the agriculture department said the state will not be able to cross the standard 2.55 lakh hectares of sowing. Farmers start sowing the rabi onion in December and finish by the end of January. Of the three crops of onion, namely kharif, late kharif and rabi, the rabi crop is amenable to storage and feeds the market till November. As much as 60 per cent of Maharashtra’s production is from the rabi season.
Now, with the sowing window of the rabi onion closing in, the state is likely to see a major dip in the onion growing areas.
By far, the greatest dip was observed in the onion belt of Nashik that reported 18,235 hectares of sowing as against the standard 80,772.38 hectares. The Nashik division that normally reported 1.27 lakh hectares has seen over 28,193.8 hectares till the first week of January.
Drought, especially in the onion belt of Nashik and in Marathwada, is being seen as a major cause of the drop in onion sowing. These areas had reported over 30 per cent deficiency in rain.
Farmers, however, said the low prices discouraged them from going for the rabi crop. Santosh Gorade, a farmer from the Takli Vinchur village of Nashik, has decided against going for onion on his holding of 3.5 acres. “Once kharif is harvested, I will go for vegetables. The cost of production is lower than that of onions,” he said.
Demands have come up from market committees to declare Rs 2,000 per quintal as the minimum selling price for the bulb. Last year, onion prices dropped from Rs 3,000 per quintal in January to below Rs 500 per qunital in November-December.