Bumper onion crop brings tears to farmers’ eyes!
As bumper crops and falling onion prices add to the distress of farmers, the Centre has stepped in to mitigate their woes. The Agriculture Ministry has decided to procure two lakh tonnes of the crop from Madhya Pradesh.
MP, the country’s second-largest grower produces about 26-28 lakh tonnes of onions annually, while Maharashtra is the largest onion producing State.
Wholesale prices of onion have fallen sharply below Rs 6 per kg in the State due to the bumper crop during the late Kharif season of 2016-17.
Record onion production is likely this year with farmers diverting cropping of oilseeds and cotton in favour of the vegetable after assured positive returns in the last few years. As per data, there is an increase of 3 per cent over the previous year. With over 160 million quintals of onion already in its godowns, the procurement of further onions is proving to be a tearful exercise for the MP Government. All the 67 centres are already overflowing with onions bought from farmers across the State. The mood among cultivators in serpentine queues in front of Government procurement centres is far from buoyant.
The Government also is facing a difficult situation due to the absence of enough storage facilities.
Meanwhile, the inflow of onions from neighbouring States has made the situation worse. Traders from neighbouring States are allegedly thrusting their stocks in guise of farmers’ produce.
Top sources in the Government said that the Ministry of Agriculture has approved a proposal to procure of two lakh tonnes of onions under the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) from MP. The procurement will be undertaken by the MP-Markfed at Rs5,867 per tonne for Fair and Average Quality (FAQ) of onion with overhead expenses of Rs1,467 per tonne or actual, whichever is less.
The decision comes against the backdrop of farmers in MP agitating against the fall in prices of agri produce. They are seeking higher support price for their produce and waiver of loans. Onion output from the crop sown during late Kharif (summer) season of the 2016-17 year has been higher which led to huge arrivals in markets and fall in prices.
Sources said the onion prices have dropped because farmers grew mostly table variety onions, which have very low shelf life. Excess supply amid low demand also led to crash in prices. Also, the scale of arrival is so much that farmers are not able to grade the crop on the basis of size, sources said.
Grading of onions would have helped farmers get better prices in Delhi and other markets, said a trader, adding that better support to growers is the need of the hour to handle the problem of plenty in the State. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 21.6 million tonnes is the estimated onion production in the country. Overall sowing area under onion cultivation increased from 1,188 lakh hectares (LH) in 2015-16 to 1,270 LH in 2016-17. Therefore, India is heading for a sharp increase in onion sowing area and its output this year. The major onion producing States are Maharashtra, Karnataka, MP, Bihar and Gujarat. Record onion prices in 1998 had made the commodity the most preferred corps among the farmers in the country. The lure of good returns, coupled with perfect weather conditions boosted yields to a record. Onion production increased ten fold between 2001 and 2016.
MP boasts of having India’s highest agricultural growth rate. From 3.6 per cent in 2005-10, the agricultural growth rate in the State jumped to 13.9 per cent in 2010-15.
Onion prices see price spurt in the lean season between August, September, October and November every year which ensures healthy returns for farmers.
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