Maharashtra onion farmers’ auction halted as they protest against the 40% export duty imposed by the government.

Amidst growing concerns of a potential plummet in prices, the Indian government made a significant move by introducing a 40% duty on onion exports until the conclusion of the year 2023. This policy change swiftly ignited a wave of discontent among the agricultural community, culminating in protests led by onion farmers who saw their hopes for lucrative returns dashed due to the imposed export duty.The decision, announced on a Saturday, was driven by the escalating cost of onions within the country, prompting the government to take measures to maintain domestic availability. However, the ramifications of this decision were immediately felt on the ground. On Sunday, farmers in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, particularly those in the Rahuri tehsil, suspended the ongoing process of auctioning onions in wholesale markets. Their stance was emblematic of the larger issue at hand: the Centre’s decision was perceived as yet another instance of the government’s purported disregard for farmers’ well-being.Sandeep Jagtap, the state president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, a farmers’ association, didn’t mince words when he criticized the government’s stance. He pointed out that Maharashtra’s farmers were banking on onion exports to bolster their income, but the imposition of the export duty effectively squashed those hopes. The subsequent anticipated drop in domestic prices would inevitably lead to financial losses for farmers. The news agency PTI quoted him saying, “The Union government’s anti-farmer stand has again come to fore.”The situation was further exacerbated by the prevailing weather conditions. Various regions of Maharashtra had experienced inadequate rainfall, which, in turn, delayed the arrival of fresh onions in the market. Jagtap articulated the farmers’ grievances, claiming that the government’s focus was skewed toward consumers’ interests, seemingly disregarding the plight of those who actually cultivate the crops.In response to the government’s move, Jagtap revealed that protests would be staged in wholesale markets across the state to exert pressure on the Central government to reconsider its decision. As part of these actions, a group of farmers in the Rahuri tehsil of Ahmednagar district took the initiative to halt the auction of onions in the wholesale market. Their efforts aimed to bring attention to the broader issue and advocate for the recognition of farmers’ challenges.A protesting farmer from Rahuri articulated the collective sentiment, highlighting the implications of the export duty on their produce. The message conveyed to traders due to the duty was crystal clear: the available onion stock was now earmarked for domestic markets exclusively. This shift in market dynamics led to a decline in the prices being quoted by traders, directly impacting farmers’ income prospects.The repercussions of the onion export duty were palpable in the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee, which happens to be Asia’s largest wholesale onion market. In just a week, prices surged by nearly 45%, escalating from ₹1,500 per quintal to ₹2,200. However, the trend was fleeting, as the imposition of the export duty essentially rendered exports impractical, causing rates to subsequently decline. An insider in the Lasalgaon APMC expressed, “Now, the rates have started coming down, as exports have become nearly impossible.”The announcement of the export duty and the subsequent protests vividly underscored the intricate relationship between government policies, market dynamics, and the livelihoods of farmers, further highlighting the challenges faced by those who put food on our tables.

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