Mumbai; An abrupt blanket ban on the export of onions by the Centre on Tuesday jolted growers in Lasalgaon, the country’s biggest wholesale market of the staple vegetable, even as politicians and other farmers cried foul.
While NCP President Sharad Pawar, a former Union Agriculture Minister, rushed to meet Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, farmers in Lasalgaon dumped onions on the roads and blocked the Mumbai-Agra Highway near the town.
The protesters raised slogans against the Centre’s ban decision even as the Maharashtra government and consumers braced for its fallout.
“I apprised Goyal of the plight of onion growers, who are mostly small and marginal farmers. I informed him that onions are in good demand internationally and we have been exporting the crop consistently. But a sudden decision (to ban) by the Centre is a major blow to India’s image as a reliable exporter of onions,” Pawar said after the meeting with Goyal.
He pointed out that Pakistan and other onion-exporting countries will benefit from this situation and urged Goyal to “reconsider the ban” on onion exports.
Goyal said that the ban was proposed by the Ministry of Consumer Protection in view of the spiralling prices of onion in the domestic market, but assured that he would reconsider after consulting with other Ministries on the issue.
State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that coming after the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, the move had hit the onion farmers even harder and they are taking to the streets.
Agriculture Minister Dada Bhuse demanded the lifting of the ban on exports for a forthright in the interest of growers.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana President Raju Shetti dubbed the ban as “revealing the anti-farmer face of the government as it will only help hoarders and black marketeers and not peasants and consumers”.
Onion Exporters Association President Ajit Shah said that excess rain in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, besides delayed harvesting of Rabi crops, had already hit the onion supplies, adding that the effects of the ban would need to be watched over the next few days.
The Centre’s move came ostensibly to arrest the runaway prices of onions, which touched over Rs 30,000 per tonne in Lasalgaon last week, and may go up further, experts fear