"Vishwasghat hai yeh. Modi Sarkar ne hamara bharosa tod diya hai. (This is betrayal. Modi government has broken our trust.)," Jayant Dudhane, an onion farmer from Chandwad teshil of Nasik told NewsClick over phone, referring to the Centre’s decision to ban onion export. He is also participating in the road bandh protest on Tuesday, September 15, in Chandwad. "Onion growing farmers have been facing losses the entire season from March to June. Now, when everyone started bringing the rest of their onion harvest to the market, this government has come up with the export ban?," he asked.
The Narendra Modi-led central government has ordered a ban on the export of onions, except the Bangalore rose and Krishnapuram variety, from September 14. This decision has been taken due to the rising prices in retail market.
Farmers in the northern belt of Maharashtra, especially Nasik, Ahmednagar and Jalgaon districts, have been left in shock by the government’s sudden order. According to Food and Civil Supply Ministry's data, this region accounts for around 45% of the country’s total production of onions. Lasalgaon, Yeola, Bhusawal, Nasik, Kalwan and Satana are few of the market committees which deals in hundreds of quintals of onions everyday.
"Modi government has removed onions from the list of essential commodities just two months back. Then what is the logic to stop the export of the onions. Farmers were receiving good amount from export of onions to South East Asian countries as well as Bangladesh. But this sudden decision will bring down the market," said Dr Ajit Nawale, farmer leader and general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha.
There are reports from Nasik, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon and part of Nandurbar districts that farmers have hit the streets and are agitating against the decision. The market committees in these districts are closed. As per police reports, the Mumbai-Agra highway, Nasik-Aurangabad highway and Sinnar-Ahmednagar state highway have been blocked by large numbers of farmers, who have stopped transportation.
"We are trying to convince the central government to revoke the decision immediately. Farmers are already bearing the huge losses of lockdown. Central government shouldn't ignore those losses," said Nasik Guardian Minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
Also read: Maharashtra Farmers' Shattered Hopes in Onion Fields
According to highly placed sources in Lasalgaon and Nasik markets, trucks with more than 20 thousand quintals of onions were allegedly stopped on the morning of September 14 at the India Bangladesh border, even before the decision of Union government was announced.
As per the information gathered by NewsClick on Tuesday, the rates of onion per quintal in THE market committees of Nasik were better in last four days. (See table below)
Earlier, the Modi government had banned export of onion during in September 2019. The Union Minister for Civil Supply Ramvilas Paswan had then tweeted in February saying that the government has lifted the ban. But, the notification was issued on March 12. Soon after, though, a countrywide lockdown to control the COVID-19 pandemic was imposed from March 24. So, farmers got only a 12 days window for export earlier this year. Later, June 1 onwards, the market committees started witnessing good business but not before farmers had lost three crucial months.
"When farmers were witnessing a complete washout of season during March to May, why did the Modi government not come forward and help farmers? For the last two weeks, the farmers were getting good rates as the demand from South East Asian countries have increased. But the Modi government took this decision which will hurt the onion growing farmers badly," said Sunil Deore, deputy chairman of Lasalgaon Market Committee.
Arjun Gangurde, a farmer from Nimbale, Chandwad, said that he sold 20 quintal onions at Rs 700 per quintal just two weeks back. But now, he had started getting good rates since the last two days and he was planning to bring more of his crop to the market. "When I was facing losses two weeks back, nobody from Modi government came to see me. Nobody helped us. Just for two days, I got Rs 2,000 per quintal, and this government directly banned the export. What else you need as proof that this government doesn't care for farmers?," he questioned.
According to sources in the state government, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar is expected to hold a meeting with Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on September 15. The state government wants Modi government to take back the decision. Whether the meeting yields the desired results for the aggrieved farmers remains to be seen.
Also read: Is This How You Are Doubling Farmers’ Income, Mr Modi?