In a sudden move, the central government's Department of Commerce on Monday banned "with immediate effect" export of onions as its average trade price in the country's biggest onion market in Maharashtra's Lasalgaon touched Rs 30/kg - double of what it was in March.
The ban has infuriated onion farmers, who had just started getting better prices for their produce which was washed away or spoilt in the heavy monsoons that hit the country's onion growing belt, including Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Responding to the development, NCP President Sharad Pawar - a key constituent in the tri-party combine governing Maharashtra - said he has discussed the issue with Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and urged him to rethink it. "The ban jeopardizes India's export share in the onion markets of Gulf countries, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Mr Pawar said in a tweet, adding that it could allow other countries, such as Pakistan, to displace India.
I also emphasized on the fact that Pakistan and other onion exporters will benefit immensely from this situation. In view of all this, I urged Piyush Goyal ji to reconsider the ban on onion exports.@PMOIndia@PiyushGoyal#onionexportban#OnionExport— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) September 15, 2020
"The central government has abruptly announced a ban on onion exports. There was a strong reaction in the onion growing belt in Maharashtra and the people's representatives of various political parties contacted me last night and requested that I inform the central government about their reaction... I urge Piyush Goyalji to rethink this decision of banning export of onion," he said in a series of tweets.
According to data from the Lasalgaon market, the price of onion doubled between March and September. In the retail market, the price of onions - a staple in Indian diet - has risen from Rs 20/kg in June-July to Rs 35-40/kg now - the trigger for government's ban on its export.
All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Dr Ajit Navale said the ban not only deceives onion growers from Maharashtra but across the country.
"Farmers are angry with this decision and have decided to protest by coming out on roads," he warned, alleging that the decision was taken because of the upcoming Bihar elections as high onion price are undesirable for any government seeking re-election.
The supply disruption of onions is likely to continue until the next new crop hits the market in November.
The ban comes three months after the central government tweaked the Essential Commodities Act-1955 to impose movement restrictions on food grains, potatoes, onions and other essential commodities applicable only in extreme conditions, such as war and natural calamity.