by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, Mar 17 (NNN-PTI) – Thousands of farmers in India’s western state of Maharashtra are marching towards the state capital, Mumbai, demanding higher prices for their onion crop.
Yesterday marked the fifth straight day of their protest march.
On Sunday evening, the farmers, including women, set out from Dindori in Nashik district. They planned to travel 200 km, before reaching Mumbai.
The farmers have a list of demands, including immediate financial relief for onion growers. Over the past few weeks, onion farmers in the state have been hit hard by a steep fall in onion prices.
Officials said, the high production has led to a fall in prices and less demand for the crop.
Apart from financial relief, the farmers are also demanding an uninterrupted electricity supply for 12 hours and a waiver of agriculture loans.
The ongoing protest march has forced the local government to announce some financial relief. However, farmers have rejected the proposal and continued their march.
Reports said, in absence of buyers, onions are rotting in the fields.
Farmers fear the cost incurred on harvesting the onion crop and taking it to the market was much higher than return on its sale.
To highlight their plight, one of the farmers burned his crop in desperation. Many others have reportedly posted parcels of onions to Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in a bid to seek attention towards their problem.
Kamkhenthang Guite, the Indian government’s economic adviser in the department of consumer affairs, said, to support farmers, it has taken up procurement of onion from Maharashtra and Gujarat and so far 12,000 tonnes of onion have been procured.
“The procurement has been undertaken by two agencies, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India,” Guite was quoted by the state-run broadcaster All India Radio (AIR), as saying.
According to him, the procured stocks were simultaneously transferred to major consuming centres in cities, including Delhi.
“This operation will continue as long as the support to the onion farmers is required,” he said.
India is the world’s second-largest producer of onions and annually produces about 24 million tonnes of the crop. Maharashtra alone accounts for 13.3 million tonnes of onion production.
Onions form the main ingredient of Indian meal, and thus make it the most important vegetable crop for household consumption.
Onions are perishable and can not be stored for long. Its prices are highly volatile. While abundance in supply results in a fall in prices and a crisis for thousands of farmers. Its shortage can send rates soaring. In the past, onion prices had brought down governments in India.
Reports say, farmers in Nashik are getting around 2.42 U.S. dollars to 4.83 dollars per 100 kg of onions in the wholesale market.
The farmers, however, are demanding an immediate financial relief of 7.25 dollars per 100 kg.– NNN-PTI