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Lockdown disrupts onion sales, procurement in Maharashtra

The market committee employees have been assigned to traders and commission agents whom farmers can contact in case of need and only farmers in urgent need of money end up contacting these traders, she explained.

Wholesale onion sales and procurement by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) for the Centre’s buffer stock has been affected due to the closure of all the 14 agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) in Nashik district of Maharashtra — a major onion producing belt in the country.

Mandis in Nashik have been shut down due to the lockdown and a rise in Covid cases since the last 10 days.

The Lasalgaon Market Committee has prepared a detailed plan for farmers to sell their produce at the farm gate under its supervision to prevent complaints of cheating.

The attempt, however, has not been very successful with sales of barely 1,000 quintals reported in the last 10 days.

Suvarna Jagtap, chairperson, Lasalgaon APMC, pointed out that farmers have not been getting good prices through this method since there is no competition with other farmers and traders end up quoting low prices. The sales have not crossed 1,000 quintals, she said.

The market committee employees have been assigned to traders and commission agents whom farmers can contact in case of need and only farmers in urgent need of money end up contacting these traders, she explained.

At present, farmers have late kharif and rabi onions in storage. While the former has a shorter shelf life, the latter, due to its lower moisture content, has a longer shelf life. Mostly farmers will store their rabi produce, which has been harvested after March in onion or kanda chawls. This stored onions would feed the market till the arrival of the new stock after Diwali.

Meanwhile, Nafed, which was to begin procurement of around 2 lakh tonne of onion as buffer stock at the prevailing market rate under the Price Stabilization Fund (PSF), have been finding it difficult to procure onions.

Yogesh Thorat, MD, Maharashtra Farmer Producer Company (MahaFPC), a federation representing nearly 303 farmer producer companies (FPCs) in the state that is part of the procurement process, said that the agencies have managed to procure around 8000 tonne so far. FPCs are offering farmers a rate of Rs 16.25 per kg, he said.

The lockdown has caused major labour shortage and closure of markets has hit the pace of procurement of onion harvested in April-May, which is to be stored in buffer stock, he said.

In Maharashtra, the onion procurement target is around 1.5 lakh tonne and 1.4 lakh tonnes will be procured through farmer producer companies — Maharajya, Pruthashakti Farmer Producer Company and MahaFPC and the remaining 10,000 tonne through Nafed.

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