Days after a farmer in Nashik district of Maharashtra sent his earnings from distressed onion sales to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government of the bulb’s largest producing state, Maharashtra, announced a Rs 1,500 million relief package to its onion farmers.
The package is set to benefit 250,000–300,000 farmers
in the state who sold their produce between November 1 and December 15 this year. During this period, onion prices hit the lowest of the season with its stored variety selling at Rs 1.50–2 a kg and new arrivals between Rs 7.50-8.60 across the state.
Sanjay Sathe, an onion farmer from Nashik, had sent his earnings of Rs 1,064 to Prime Minister Narendra Modi early this month. The farmer claimed to have received the amount on selling 750 kg of onion at an average realisation of Rs 1.42 a kg. Interestingly, the cost of onion production in Maharashtra is estimated at around Rs 5 a kg.
Sathe was disappointed with the Prime Minister’s claim of doubling famers’ income by 2022. This was a unique way of protest against low realisation from farm produce. The Prime Ministers’ Office (PMO) returned the amount to the farmer.
“Irrespective of their realization, farmers
will get Rs 2 a kg of ex-gratia up to a maximum of Rs 40,000 for their produce sold during the last six weeks ending December 15. This is set to benefit between 250,000–300,000 farmers across major onion producing regions including Nashik, Ahmednagar, Satara and Dhule,” said Anoop Kumar, Principal Secretary (Agriculture and Marketing), Government of Maharashtra.
Farmers are entitled to receive benefit for a maximum 20 tonnes of onion sold during the six-week period ending December 15. “Even if they sold larger quantities of onion during this period, they would receive an upper limit of Rs 40,000 directly in their account,” Kumar said.
Maharashtra contributes nearly 35 per cent of India’s annual onion output. However, instability in government policies and absence of any sustained procurement policy or minimum selling price (MSP) has hit onion farmers in Maharashtra badly. Experts believe hundreds of tillers in the state commit suicide every year as their realization is lower than cost of production across farm produce.
The Maharashtra government had earlier announced a one-rupee-a-kg ex-gratia amount to aggrieved farmers in 2017.
Farmers are facing low realization from onion almost every year. While stored onion is sold below Rs 2 a kg in the benchmark Agricultural Produce Markets Committee (APMC) at Lasalgaon, Nashik, export quality onion fetches a higher price due to its longer shelf life.
“Stored variety is pulling down prices of all types of onion in the wholesale markets. The government’s announcement of ex-gratia is a major relief for farmers and will certainly encourage them to continue onion farming in future,” said Sanjay Sanap, a farmer and onion trader in Nashik.
The entire quantity of onion that arrived in the mandi between November 1 and December 15, is entitled for ex-gratia of Rs 2 a kg, said Kumar.