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Centre bans onion export till March; Nashik farmers protest

Workers at Vinchur onion market in Nashik.  File

Workers at Vinchur onion market in Nashik. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Centre has imposed a ban on the export of onions until March 31, 2024, to curb the surging local prices of the product.

A Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) order late on Thursday said: “Export policy of onions… is amended from free to prohibited till March 31, 2024.”

Earlier, on August 19, the Union government had imposed a 40% duty on the export of onions (minimum export price of $800 per metric ton) until December 31, to increase domestic availability amid signs of increasing prices and provide relief to local consumers.

In its order, the DGFT also said that the onion exports, however, will be allowed based on permission granted by the government to other countries based on their request and that shipments, whose loading had commenced before the fresh notification, are allowed to be exported.

In response to the Center’s announcement of a ban on the export of onions until March 31, 2024, farmers in Maharashtra’s Nashik district took to the streets, blocking the Mumbai-Agra National Highway at three locations and disrupting auctions

The farmers also halted auctions in Lasalgaon, Asia’s largest wholesale onion market, Chandwad, Nandgaon, Dindori, Yeola, Umarane, and other places in Nashik.

Stating that the ban would adversely impact farmers, protesters staged road blockades with tractors for hours. With no auction at the Lasalgaon APMC, over 600 onion-laden vehicles were redirected to Vinchur with wholesale prices ranging from ₹1,500 to ₹3,300 per quintal.

Lasalgaon APMC chairperson Balasaheb Kshirsagar condemned the government’s decision, claiming it was unfavourable to farmers.

“Onion prices had recently come down, and the ban would lead to losses. Presently, onion prices range from ₹1,000 to ₹1,200 per quintal, despite some selling at ₹3,000 per quintal,” he said, alleging middlemen for artificial price inflation.

Mr. Kshirsagar demanded direct government sales without the involvement of middlemen.

“Farmers had already suffered losses due to unseasonal rainfall and hail. It must revoke its decision on the ban to support farmers,” another farmer said.

The farmers and traders associations are likely to meet Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, his deputy Ajit Pawar, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar to express their concerns.

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