Maharashtra Farmers' Shattered Hopes in Onion Fields - Amey Tirodkar

The crisis of falling onion prices is killing farmers in Maharashtra. The highest onion growing district, Nasik, has witnessed 18 farmers suicides within the first 20 days of 2019.

Last week the photo of a farmer lying dead on the onion crop in his farm went viral on social media in Maharashtra, bringing the already deepening crisis of onion price into headlines again. Reactions started pouring in from all corners.

The farmer was thirty-five years old Dnyaneshwar Shivankar, from Kandhare village of Nasik's Malegaon teshil. He had consumed poison as his crop got rotten in his farm shed.

Dnyaneshwar is not alone. Eighteen farmers have committed suicide in the first 20 days of the new year. It shows how deep the crisis is and how farmers have lost faith of any help from the state.

The Onion Farmers’ Crisis

India is witnessing a bumper onion crop this season. Almost 220 lakh tonnes of onion crop have flooded the market, which is around 40 lakh tonnes extra than the country's consumption capacity. This has impacted the rates of onion procurement on ground badly. To get an idea of the onion crisis, we need to understand the cycle of onion prices first.

When the market falls badly, farmers turn to other crop than onions. So, in the next season the rate of onions shoots up to sky. This gives a good amount to the farmers directly. Then, in the next season, large number of farmers again shift to onions. The extra produce results in the falling of prices. And so on. This is the cycle of crisis. Over the last thirty years, this has been happening season after season.  

If we look into the rate cards in the last three and half years, we find the same picture. The market has seen rates as low as below Rs. 800 per quintal from December 2015 to July 2017. This was the longest 'down market' of recent time. As a result, farmers turned to another crop in 2017. This resulted into the shooting up of prices from July 2017 to February 2018. This brief period saw the rates going up to Rs. 2,500 per quintal. From February 2018 to January 2019, the rates have been again down and farmers are getting almost negligible price for their crop. According to reports, in few markets, the onion rate has gone down to Rs. 100-150 per quintal.

Please click here to read more., 23 January, 2019,

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