Even as the wholesale prices of onions across mandis in Maharashtra continue to fall, the central government has asked for a report about traders allegedly involved in market distortion. This comes close on the heels of the Income-Tax department raiding the office and premises of seven traders in Nashik for hoarding onions. On September 21, the joint secretary, ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare, wrote to the principal secretary, government of Maharashtra, asking him to look into the market distortion in case of onion. The letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, alludes to an unnamed media report which had suggested that five traders of Maharashtra were indulging in cartelization.
“As evident from the data uploaded by the respective APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committees) on Agmarknet portal, the prices during the period of fresh arrivals of onion – ie from March to May 2017 in Maharashtra – ranged between Rs 450-550 per quintal. Thereafter, the major supply of onion in the country came from the stores in Lasalgaon, Nashik,” the letter read.
This, the government feels, is a the practice of cartelisation which had a “deleterious pan-India impact”. “Reports also reveal the nexus with traders in the Northeast where wholesale onions did not sell below Rs 26-27 per kg. There are reports of mandis being closed down erratically, creating distortion in the demand supply chain,” it went on to add. The Centre has asked for a report from the state government and the deputy district registrar of Nashik will prepare the report.
The directives strangely come at a time when the wholesale prices of the bulb are on a downward spiral. At the Lasalgaon mandi, per quintal prices have traced a sinusoidal curve with it peaking at Rs 2,450 on August 10 and hovering between the Rs 1,800-1,900 range till the first week of September. Following the Income-Tax raids, the prices have corrected to be in Rs 1,200-1,300 range. On Wednesday, the average price for the trade was Rs 1,350. Jaydutt Holkar, chairman of Lasalgaon market, said the price rise was mainly because of the crop loss in south India due to drought.