Onion traders in Nashik staged a protest on Monday against the Centre’s announcement of a stock limit for onions. They termed the move “impractical” and threatened to boycott the auction of onions if action was taken against them for violating the stock limits.
With less than a month to go for state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, the Centre on Sunday decided to ban the export of onions in a bid to control the retail price hike across the country. Union Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Ram Vilas Paswan also announced a stock limit for onions, prescribing a limit of 500 quintals for wholesale and 100 quintals for retail traders per day till November 30. The minister also asked state governments to take action against traders found violating this limit.
Prior to this, the Centre had slapped a steep Minimum Export Price (MEP) of $850 per tonne to stem exports so that the prices dip in wholesale and retail markets.
On Monday, trade in most wholesale markets in Maharashtra remained suspended as traders and farmers from various parts of Nashik and Pune took to the streets to protest against the stock limits. Several traders gathered at Chandwad in Nashik to discuss the fallout of the measure. Trade resumed in the second half, but remained slow, sources said.
Sohanlal Bhandari, president of Nashik onion traders’ association, said, “Once onion is procured from wholesale markets, it has to be sorted and graded before it can be sent across. This process takes two to three days. This notification would virtually dry up the trade as traders would have to dispose of their stocks before they can buy more,” he said.
Several other traders told The Indian Express that in every market, there were four to five traders who control the trade and buy in bulk. “If such traders stop buying, what will the market committees do if the whole arrival from farmers is not sold?” they said.
Traders also pointed out that at the present rates, hoarding did not make sense. They claimed that while the government yields the stick for traders operating out of the wholesale markets, there was little or no mechanism to control the prices at the retail end.
Bhandari, who led a delegation of traders to meet the Nashik Collector, said they have asked for a reconsideration on the stock limit. “We are ready to submit daily reports of procurement and sales of onion, but action should be initiated only if the trader fails to dispose of the onion within seven days of purchase. If any action is taken before that, we will boycott auction in the wholesale markets,” he said.
Onion prices in wholesale markets of Nashik had crossed Rs 3,500 per quintal, while in the major cities, the bulb is trading at Rs 60-80 per kg. A dip in production in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka has led to the spike in its price.