India’s onion export ban: farmers’ unrest in Maharashtra as prices decline

The Indian government’s move to ban the export of onion has sparked a farmers’ unrest in Maharashtra while nearly hundreds of trucks carrying an estimated 25,000 tonnes of onion were stranded on the Bangladesh border with West Bengal.

Onion farmers have threatened to stop auction of the kitchen staple if the export ban was not rolled back. No auction reportedly took place at Lasalgaon, Asia’s biggest wholesale market of onion, since the announcement, reports our New Delhi correspondent.

As a result, the average wholesale price fell sharply at Lasalgaon. It fell to Rs 1,900 per quintal on Tuesday from the Rs 3,000 on Monday, following the announcement of the ban.

The Maharashtra unit Congress, a part of the state’s ruling coalition, has decided to stage a state-wide protest demanding withdrawal of the “unjust” decision to ban export of onions, said the state’s Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat.

The Indian government on Monday banned the export of all varieties of onions with immediate effect to curb rising prices of the commodity in the domestic market.

“Farmers hoped to get good prices for their onions. But the whimsical Modi government at the Centre suddenly banned export of onions. The Congress will stage a statewide protest on Wednesday, seeking immediate withdrawal of the export ban,” Thorat, who is also Maharashtra Congress chief, said.

The Congress’ ally Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra has already made clear its opposition to the export ban and demanded its revocation.

Indian Agriculture Ministry sources said the rise in onion price has come about despite adequate stock in godowns. Maharashtra alone has a stocking capacity of 3.7 million tonnes of onion and at present an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of summer onions is stored in the state.

They said the spurt in onion price has happened mostly on apprehension of shortage in view of the damage to kharif season onions due to heavy rains and flood in some key onion-growing states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

Onion exporters in Mahadipur of Malda said at least 150 trucks with onion were stranded and such reports have also come in from other land border ports at Hili, Petrapole, Ghojadanga, Changrabandha and Fulbari.

“My estimate is that around 1,000 trucks are at these land ports, each loaded with 25 tonnes of onions,” according to Joint Convenor of Exporters Coordination Committee, Uzzwal Saha.

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