Wholesale onion traders from Nashik keep auctions suspended on Monday to protest against stock limit

Wholesale onion traders in Nashik district boycotted auctions on Monday in protest against the central government‘s imposition of stock limit on onions on Friday. Home to Lasalgaon, the biggest onion market in the country, the traders said stock limits favoured importers by exempting them and have demanded that instead of stock limit, a time limit to dispose of onions purchased by the middle men would help better control hoarding.

“Traders from Nashik district will not be able to purchase onions from farmers until they are able to sell onions being held by them. If we continue to buy from farmers, then we would be violating the stock limit restrictions. Traders from other states are also refusing to buy fearing violation of stock limit,” said Sohanlal Bhandari, chairman, Nashik District Onion Traders Association.

Unlike at most Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) in the rest of the country, farmers bring onions filled in tractor trolleys to the mandis in Nashik district.

“We need time to dispatch the stocks forward as we have to do grading and packing of the loose onions,” said Bhandari, adding, “For the big traders in Nashik district, it is tough to keep working within the given stock limit. If we sell some quantity to a trader in another state, till the time the vehicle reaches there and the trader takes the delivery, the stock reflects in our books.”

“We have not received any official communication from the traders about keeping trade closed. However, they are not working today,” said Suvarna Jagtap, chairperson, Lasalgaon APMC said, Traders have claimed that they have support of some farmers’ organisations for today’s bandh.

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After the export ban and income tax raids at premises of traders in Nashik followed by facilitating imports by relaxing some terms and conditions, on October 23 the government also mandated a stock limit of 25 tonnes on wholesale traders and 2 tonnes on retail traders.

“The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, provides for the circumstances for imposition of stock limit under extraordinary price rise. The All India average retail price variation of onions as on October 21 pared to last year is 22.12 % (from Rs 45.33 to Rs 55.60 per/Kg) and when compared to last 5 years average is 114.96 % (from Rs 25.87 to 55.60 per/ Kg). Therefore, the prices have increased by more than 100% when compared with the average of the last 5 years and thus the price triggers under EC Act have been reached,” a release from the government said justifying the stock limit.

However, the wholesale prices touched a high of Rs 90/kg in the previous week in some mandis in Nashik. Along with the private traders, the government also asked state agency MMTC to begin onion imports. Following the imposition of the stock limit, wholesale onion prices cooled down by about Rs 10/kg in Nashik and some other markets in Maharashtra. The average wholesale rates are Rs 50/kg to Rs 70/kg in major metro cities of the country.



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