MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Tuesday told the legislative assembly that his government is with the onion farmers, amid reports of falling prices of the key kitchen staple in the wholesale market, and talked of financial help for the growers if required.
Speaking on the floor of the lower house, Shinde said, We are firmly standing by the onion growers in the state. NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited) has started onion procurement and that would push the prices up."
NAFED, an apex organisation under the Union Ministry of Agriculture, deals with marketing cooperatives for agricultural produce in India.
"On our request, NAFED has increased its onion procurement and 2. 38 lakh tonnes (of onion) have already been purchased from farmers. If a particular area does not have a procurement centre, then it will be opened for farmers," Shinde said on the second day of the budget session of the state legislature.
The price per kilogram of onion came down to Rs 2 to Rs 4 on Monday at Maharashtra's Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee, Asia's biggest onion market, prompting angry farmers to stop the auction of the bulb.
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"There is no ban on export of onions. If required, farmers will get some financial assistance as well," the chief minister said.
Earlier in the assembly, Chhagan Bhujbal, an NCP leader from Nashik district, spoke about farmers' distress and questioned the Centre's policy over onion.
"One of the biggest onion wholesale markets in the state is in my constituency. As per available information, there is a huge demand for Indian onion in countries like Turkiye, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Belarus. We should export onion so that it benefits our farmers," said the senior Nationalist Congress Party leader.
"Several international traders have complained that the Indian government is arbitrarily imposing ban (on onion export) or lifting it. Hence, they are not keen on procuring (onion) from us. There is no consistency in our policy," he said.
"I urge the state government to speak with the people in Delhi, maybe Piyush Goyal (Union commerce minister), but ensure farmers do not incur losses," he said.
ALSO READ | Maharashtra farmer earns only Rs 2.49 net profit on sale of 512 kg onions
On the difficulties faced by onion growers, BJP legislator Rahul Aher said, "The Russia-Ukraine war, weakening economy of Sri Lanka and the situation in Bangladesh are also responsible for poor demand from Maharashtra. There are many states in the country that have started onion cultivation, which has negatively affected the farmers of our state."
Before they entered the House, opposition leaders sat on the steps of the Vidhan Bhavan and raised slogans to highlight the plunge in onion prices.
Earlier this month, a farmer from Maharashtra's Solapur district earned a profit of Rs 2.49 against the sale of 512 kg onions to a trader in the district.