Overnight ban on export of onion by the Centre issued on December 7 has triggered widespread protests by the farmers and traders in Gujarat, second largest onion growing state in the country, where farmers are taking to the streets while traders have suspended onion trading in main markets in the state.
For almost a week, onion farmers and traders in the main markets in Mahuva, Gondal and Rajkot have been protesting after the Centre imposed a blanket ban on export of onions from midnight of December 8 onwards.
As abrupt ban to exports onion in the midst of harvesting season came into effect, prices in APMC mandis in the state crashed from around ₹4,000 per quintal to ₹2,500 per quintal, a steep drop of more than 35 % dashing the farmers’ expectations of better prices of their produce.
Since the ban became effective, trading of onion has remained suspended in Mahuva, which is the second largest onion hub in the country, and Gondal, another key market in Gujarat.
On Thursday, farmers blocked National Highway in Gondal and forced to cancel auction and wholesale trading of onion at APMCs in Mahuva and Gondal, angry farmers shut the gates of markets and even threw away their crops on the streets.
“We had to cancel the auction and trading of onion after protests by the farmers,” said Tarun Pachani, Secretary of Gondal APMC.
Similarly in Mahuva also, farmers forced to scrap the trading that was to resume on Thursday, first time after the export ban came into effect.
At both places, nearly 70,000 bags containing 40 kg each were brought in by the growers but the continued protests disrupted any trading activity.
“This is the most anti farmer government. When we were getting better prices, the export ban has been imposed to hit us,” said Jeram Patel outside Gondal APMC.
Mahuva APMC’s chairman Ghanshyam Patel described the Centre’s move to ban exports as against the stated objective of providing remunerative prices to farmers for their crops.
According to him, last year, farmers were getting only ₹350 per quintal while this year was better for them as prices remained around ₹3,500 per quintal. However, the retails prices shot up due to low sowing of onion in August-September in Gujarat owing to excessive rain in August and shortage of it in September.
Also, showers in late September damaged crops and affected yields that contributed in soaring prices that led the government to announce the ban.
According to traders; more than 1,000 onion trucks were headed to Bangladesh when the Central government imposed a sudden ban on exports on December 8 to keep prices of the vegetable in check.
“The prices crashed because all those consignments which were headed for export have been diverted into local markets,” a wholesale dealer told The Hindu.
Mr. Patel of Mahuva APMC said that the consignments headed to Bangladesh were of low quality onion priced around ₹2,000 per quintal and that were not being sold in the local markets but now there would be no taker for those low quality stocks.
He has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to review the export ban that has adversely hit the farmers in Gujarat.
“Last year, onion growers had suffered losses and therefore the Gujarat government had to announce special assistance of ₹2 per kg to farmers. However, when the market is helping farmers recoup some of those losses, it is unfair on the part of the government to take such a step and ban the exports,” he said explaining that the ban is against the interests of the growers.
Gujarat’s leader of opposition in the state assembly Amit Chavda has also written to the state Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel saying the ban on exports of onion has upended the farmers of the state.
As the protests intensified, Rajkot BJP MP Mohan Kundariya told media persons that a group of parliamentarians from Saurashtra region have urged the union agriculture minister to revoke the export ban so that farmers can sell their crops at remunerative prices in the market.