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Indian onion farmers remain at mercy of market ups and downs

Sanjay Sathe is the name of the onion farmer from Maharashtra’s Nasik district, who made headlines by donating Rs 1,064 to the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. Why was this important? It was the amount he had earned by selling 750 kg of onions. It translated to less than Rs 1.5 (€0.02) per kg. The cost of producing onions is around Rs 6 per kg.

Farmers in major onion-producing centres such as Nasik, Indore, Mandsaur, Neemuch and Bijapur have all suffered due to a crash in prices. Prices in Madhya Pradesh’s Neemuch mandi slumped to as low as Rs 0.5 per kg. Some farmers chose to take back their crop, others chose to dump it.

According to data from the government-maintained price portal Agmarknet, prices in the Neemuch mandi began to crash around November 20. Prior to that, prices hovered around Rs 8 per kg, slightly more than the cost of production, but then crashed to as low as Rs 1.5 per kg.

Similar prices have prevailed in other prominent onion-producing centres in Madhya Pradesh. In Khandwa, prices crashed to Rs 2.5 per kg on December 5, while they were Rs 3 per kg in Indore.

Onion continues to retail at around Rs 20 per kg. “The trader makes all the profit. Farmers are at the mercy of the trader,” said one grower.

Prices have also crashed in Karnataka’s Bijapur, which is another major onion-producing centre in the country. From a price of around Rs 15 per kg in mid-November, prices have now dropped to Rs 2 per kg.

In Lasalgaon mandi – which is the largest wholesale market of onions in the country – in Nasik, prices have crashed in the last month. On December 1, the modal price (the price at which most farmers sold their produce) of onions was Rs 2.8 per kg. The minimum price at which farmers sold their produce was Rs 1.5 per kg and the maximum price was Rs 5 per kg, well below the cost of production.


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