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Farmers in poll-bound Maharashtra fume at centre over onion export ban

Retail prices of onions have gone up to Rs 70-80/kg from Rs 30/kg in the last couple of weeks due to supply disruption.

ET Bureau|
Sep 30, 2019, 09.02 AM IST
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PTI
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Onion prices have always been a sensitive poll issue as was seen in 1998, when the BJP lost the Delhi assembly elections due to the bulb’s high prices then.
New Delhi | Mumbai: The central government’s decision to ban the export of onions and impose stock limit on traders to rein in rising prices have triggered an angry backlash from farmers in poll-bound Maharashtra. Onion prices have always been a sensitive poll issue as was seen in 1998, when the BJP lost the Delhi assembly elections due to the bulb’s high prices then.

Retail prices of onions have gone up to Rs 70-80/kg from Rs 30/kg in the last couple of weeks due to supply disruption from flood-affected onion-growing areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka. In Maharashtra, which produces 35% of India’s 23.5 million tonnes of onion, farmers are unhappy with the imposition of stock limit and export ban.

“It seems the government does not want farmers to earn some money. We have been suffering losses due to heavy rains. Only 20-30% of onions have survived. We have been selling these and recouping our losses and now, the government has decided to stop exports,” said Ashok Walunj, a farmers and former director of Pune Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC).

Retailers can now stock only up to 100 quintals of onions and wholesale traders are allowed to keep up to 500 quintals. A week ago, the government had increased the minimum export price of onion to discourage exports. These measures are likely to improve domestic availability of onion and bring down prices.

“There were reports of onion being exported to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at lower MEP even after the increase. So, a ban was needed to stop it,” said a consumers affairs department official.

Raju Shetti, a farmer leader and former MP from Hatkanangale, while slamming the government decision, said: “This shows that the government does not care for farmers. They have an issue if he earns extra money. The export ban will lead to the common farmer suffering.”

According to farmers in Nashik, middlemen are exploiting the situation.

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