Maharashtra Onion Traders Strike, Surrender Licenses in Protest

The Ban on Onion Auction Continues, Posing Challenges for Farmers

The stalemate between onion traders in Maharashtra’s Nashik district and the state government entered its second day on Thursday, disrupting the auction of this kitchen staple. Representatives of the Nashik District Onion Traders Association (NDOTA) met with Guardian Minister Dada Bhuse and the District Collector but failed to find a definitive solution, resulting in the continuation of the strike. The ban on onion auctions has significant implications for farmers and is expected to impact the retail price and supply of onions across the country. In response to the administration’s threat of license suspension or cancellation, some traders voluntarily surrendered their trade licenses.

Traders Demand Resolution as Ban on Auctions Takes Toll

The recent decision by the Union government to raise export duty on onions by up to 40% serves as a key catalyst for the ongoing strike. The traders have presented their demands, which include the cancellation of export duty on onions, a 50% reduction in market fees, and the involvement of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India (NCCF) in auctions. Additionally, they are calling for a 50% subsidy in onion transportation costs. The traders have emphasized that they are not opposing the auction of onions but will only participate if their demands are met. Pravin Kadam of NDOTA explained, “The government can directly buy the bulbs from farmers through NAFED, but we are not going to take part unless our demands are met.”

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Concerns Arise from Lower Rates for Procured Onions

The issue at hand stems from the sale of onions procured by NAFED and NCCF in the domestic wholesale market at lower rates. Traders claim that they initially purchased onions at higher prices, but now they are compelled to sell them at NAFED’s prescribed rates, making it extremely challenging for them to conduct business under these conditions. “NAFED is selling the onions at a meagre price in the retail market across the country, after buying them from some Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in the district. We can’t compete with them. Let them waste the taxpayers’ money,” said Kadam. Balasaheb Darade, chairman of the Traders’ Association at Lasalgaon APMC, the largest wholesale onion market in Asia, declared, “Until the government discusses the export duty and our demands, market committees will remain closed, and traders will not participate in the auction process.”

Efforts to Resolve the Issue and Upcoming Meeting

In an attempt to resolve the matter, the office-bearers of NDOTA met with Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Marketing Minister Abdul Sattar on September 13. They submitted a representation to intervene and find a solution to the ongoing strike. A meeting has been scheduled for September 26 to further discuss and deliberate on the issue. During the meeting, Mr. Bhuse urged the traders to present their side and appealed to them not to halt onion auctions during Ganeshotsav, as such action would inflict losses upon the farmers. However, the traders remained resolute in their stance during the two-hour meeting, resulting in the current impasse.

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Overall, the ban on onion auctions continues to pose significant challenges for farmers, as negotiations between the traders and the government have yet to yield a compromise. With the strike ongoing, the implications for the retail price and supply of onions nationwide remain uncertain. The meeting on September 26 will be a crucial opportunity for both sides to discuss and find a resolution to this issue, ensuring the stability of the onion market and the livelihoods of the farmers.

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