Onion farmers detained ahead of PM Modi’s visit to Nashik

The onion producers intended to protest on the poor decisions taken by the Central government regarding export prices

Updated - May 16, 2024 07:37 am IST

Published - May 15, 2024 10:37 pm IST - MUMBAI

There are around 3.5 lakh onion producing farmers registered with Maharashtra Rajya Kanda Utpadak Shetkari Sangathna (Maharashtra State Onion Producer Association).?

There are around 3.5 lakh onion producing farmers registered with Maharashtra Rajya Kanda Utpadak Shetkari Sangathna (Maharashtra State Onion Producer Association).? | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nashik, over 50 farmers and Opposition parties from the Maha Vikas Aghadi were detained in different police stations in Nashik. The onion producers and the Opposition had planned to stage a protest against the poor and unstructured decisions taken by the Central government regarding export prices over the last one year.

Farmers were detained since 7 a.m. in their respective tehsils and villages in Nashik district and were released only after 5 p.m.

Editorial | A sob story: On onion exports

There are around 3.5 lakh onion producing farmers registered with Maharashtra Rajya Kanda Utpadak Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra State Onion Producers Association).

Founder president of the association, Bharat Dighole said, “On August 19, 2023, the Union government had imposed a 40%?duty on the export of onions. On October 28, 2023 a new decision was made instead requiring the exporter to pay the government $800 per tonne of onion instead. After that on December 7, 2023,?the Directorate General of Foreign Trade passed an order declaring that the onion export policy would be amended to make it free from prohibition till March 31, 2024.”

“However, by March, the election code of conduct was announced, and the DGFT released another statement saying that the export ban continues until further notice. On May 4, 2024, the ban was lifted, though, on select terms and conditions. The exporter must pay $550 per metric tonne to the government now,” he said pointing to the continually shifting policy on the matter.

Maharashtra supplies onion to more than 50 countries, said Dighole and added, “It has been over 9 months and if the Opposition really wanted to help us, they would have shown that support by taking our concerns to the Centre but they did not. NCP leader Sharad Pawar could have easily taken our issues to the Commerce Minister or the Home Minister if he really cared for farmers.”

Onion farmers also said the local media did not cover their concerns when they were detained. “From PM Modi to Sharad Pawar to Uddhav Thackeray were present here but none spoke for us,” Mr. Dighole said.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s Minister of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Chhagan Bhujbal?wrote to PM Modi saying farmers believe that the Central Government has done “injustice” to them due to its policy on onion exports.

He said that the onion farmers were struggling with production costs due to “labour shortage, rising labour rates and prohibitively expensive onion seed fertilizers” and said that onion should also be given a minimum base price.

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