The state administration has threatened to cancel the licences of onion traders who fail to resume auctions in the APMCs of Nashik from Monday. Auctions have been suspended since Friday — a day after raids on several prominent traders. Onion traders had met in Vinchur on Saturday and suggested that they would not resume auctions until they got clear guidelines from the administration on how much onion stock they can hold.
The APMCs of Lasalgaon, Pimpalgaon, Umrane, Deola and Kalvan have been issued notices by the district administration to resume auction from Monday or face revoking of their licences. Following a series of raids by the Income Tax department on seven prominent onion traders in Nashik district on Thursday, onion auction has been brought to a grinding halt in the district.
The raids were conducted on Thursday morning on 25 locations owned by prominent traders, including Satish Lunkad of Satana, Khandu Deore of Umrane, Praveen Hedda of Chandwad, Ratanlal Raka of Lasalgaon, Kantilal Surana of Lasalgaon, Rameshwar Attal of Yeola and Sohanlal Bhandari of Pimpalgaon. The raids and accounting of records of these traders were still being carried out on Saturday.
In Vinchur, traders under the aegis of the Nashik District Traders’ Association held a meeting to chalk out their strategy. Several top office bearers of the association could not attend the meeting as their premises had been raided. The traders stated that they are not likely to start work until they get clarity from the government on how much onion they can stock.
“We have been told that this is a crackdown on hoarding. However, it is not something that we have done. The increase in price has been because of shortage of produce in other markets in the country. We do not want to stall auctions. But we will do so only if we do not get some clarity from the administration on how much stocks we can keep,” a Pimpalgaon-based trader, who did not wish to be named, said. The raids are a culmination of a month-long monitoring of markets in Nashik district, which is the onion basket of the country accounting for nearly 15 per cent of the country’s onion production.
Last month, a delegation from the Centre, led by top officials of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, was in Lasalgaon to ascertain the reasons behind the massive fluctuation in onion prices at the APMCs. Subsequently, the local administration had been keeping a close eye on onion stocks in godowns of traders to ensure there was no hoarding. Earlier this week, farmers in the district complained that they were being shortchanged in the market.
In spite of the heavy demand for onions from Nashik due to crop failure in states like Gujarat and MP, farmers claimed that they were not getting the right price. In August, the price per quintal of onion was between Rs 1,250 and Rs 2,450, which in September fell to between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,820. A section of farmers was critical of the central government saying it was trying to create fear in the minds of traders and farmers.
“Prices of onions have been falling for the past two years. The government never felt the need to send a committee to the APMC to find out why prices were falling. However, in August, when farmers were getting a good price, a committee was sent, which led to prices dipping in the market. If the government is so keen on helping consumers, it should announce a minimum support price of Rs 2000 per quintal for farmers,” Deepak Pagar, leader of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, said.