Dhananjay Sasane is in tears on hearing that the price of a quintal of onion has plummeted to Rs 400-Rs 600 from Rs 1,500 a month ago. A farmer from Vaijapur Tehsil of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, he had grown onions on four out of five acres hoping to make Rs 3 lakh by selling the produce at the earlier rate.
“I have 225 quintals of onions. A quintal was sold at Rs 1,500 a month ago. But as the summer crop arrived at the market in bulk, rates have fallen by almost 60%,” a teary Sasane tells Newsclick at the Vaijapur market committee. He has no option but to sell his produce because he has to prepare for Kharif crops with the monsoon arriving soon.
Onions have flooded the market since the last week of March. The second and third weeks of May are actually the peak time for the summer crop as people buy onions in bulk and preserve it for the next six months.
With excess rainfall in Maharashtra in 2021, several farmers have turned to cash crops like sugarcane and others to onions. Some of them have cultivated both crops. As per the state agriculture department, onions were cultivated on 40,000 hectares during the Rabi season in Marathwada alone.
Mukesh Kokat, from Georai Tehsil, Beed, has a similar story. He had cultivated onions on four out of seven acres hoping to get, at least, Rs 900-Rs 1,000 per quintal.
Generally, an acre of land produces 60-70 quintals of onions. At the expected rate, Kokat would have earned, at least, Rs 2,70,000 by selling almost 250 quintals. Now, he will bear a loss of Rs 300-Rs 400 per quintal—a hit of almost Rs 75,000.
“If you add all the expenses for cultivating onions, the cost of one acre is Rs 450-Rs 500. The current rate of Rs 600 is too less to cover the expenses. That is why the state government should buy onions directly from farmers,” Kokat says.
The demand that the state government should buy onions at a minimum of Rs 25 per kg is gaining traction among farmers. Pradeep Gaikawad, president, Onion Growers Association of Vaijapur, has already demanded that NAFED should purchase onions at Rs 30 per kg. “Such an intervention will help the farmers to get back the money they have invested in cultivating onions and also prepare for the Kharif season,” Gaikwad tells Newsclick.
The All India Kisan Sabha has also demanded the same with state general secretary Ajit Nawale writing to state marketing minister Balasaheb Patil to immediately intervene. “Monsoon is knocking at the doors. Farmers immediately need money to prepare for Kharif crops. They will get good money only if the state government buys onions from them. The state should set up onion buying centres at all APMCs and purchase them by the first week of June,” Nawale wrote.
As per the two district committees of onion growing farmers in Aurangabad and Dhule, almost 30% of onions are still with farmers. According to reports, the monsoon has arrived rains in the southern parts of the state. It takes hardly 15 days before rains start lashing Marathwada and all parts of north Maharashtra.