the Onion tears of the government


If the farmers produce less, they lose out and if they produce more, they lose out. But don’t worry, the government has acknowledged the lower than minimum price for the onions. Oh wait, there is no minimum price for perishables.

In a response to a Q&A in Loksabha, the government has acknowledged the growing unrest among the farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra over the Onion prices. The reason and I quote “Arrival of the produce in very high volumes during the peak harvesting season sometimes depressed wholesale prices.

Onion

And thats not all the government is also extremely concerned and so concerned that they are not only shedding the Onion tears but are trying various options to protect the farmers from making distress sale in the event of bumper crop during the peak arrival period and in fact, they have been trying these options for years, with the same exact result – farmers taking the hit whenever there is a bumper crop production.

Exhibit I: Remunerative Price

Remunerative Prices for Prices – Question No:1412 answered on July 25th 2017, Question No: 30 answered on Dec 1st 2015 and Question No: 316 answered on Nov 25 2014

The onion prices have not fallen for the first time and each time the government acknowledges the fall in price and comes up with a host of recommendations, which by the way are repeated, every single time and quite shamelessly.

  • Limit the import of onions
  • Assistance is provided for development of infrastructure for post harvest management and marketing such as storages, wholesale markets, rural primary market, Kissan Mandies, etc.
  • Facilitating direct marketing, contract farming, setting up of private markets, farmer consumer markets and e-markets.
  • Implementing Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for procurement of agricultural and horticultural commodities including onion, under which losses, if any, are shared between the Central Government and the State Government concerned on 50:50 basis.

Exhibit II: Imports are done without any proper assessment of the ground reality

(response to question # 139 answered on July 18th 2016)

a)&(b) Yes, Madam. During the last three years, the Government imported a quantity of 1987.38 MT of onions through MMTC, a Public Sector Enterprise under the administrative control of Department of Commerce, during 2015-16 under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF), at a total import cost ex-godownof Rs.11,44,87,035.66. In view of its perishable nature and absence of firm requirement from state governments/other state agencies, the imported onions were disposed off by MMTC through auction

Exhibit III: (Response to question number : 2114  dated Nov 29th 2016)

The gap between wholesale and retail price depends on factors such as transportation cost, loading/ unloading expenses, grading/sorting, wholesaler’s margin, wastages during movement/weighing, location of retail shops, fixed overhead expenses of retailers and margin of retailers etc.

The Government through ‘Market Intervention Scheme (MIS)’ may provide support prices to farmers in case of glut in production and resultant fall in market prices, based on the proposal/request of State Government. In addition, Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) may also be used to procure onions for subsequent release to control the volatility in its prices

The questions that need to be asked and addressed immediately and effectively are

  • Why are perishables not covered under the MSP?
  • Why did the above recommendations/suggestions not able to contain the fall in onion prices?
  • How did the government decide on the price as part of their Market Intervention Scheme for perishables or in this case, the onions?
  • Why and how are the imports of commodities (including perishables) decided?
  • Why are farmers not included in the 7th pay commission?
  • Why is there no monthly salary for the farmers?

Sunny Deol was found helpless in the court of justice and in utter dispair and anger, shouts his lungs out, “Tareekh pe tareekh, tareekh pe tareekh, tareekh pe tareekh milti gayi My Lord, Per insaaf nahi mila, bus mili hein to Tareekh” and If I contextualize this, “Question pe question, question pe question, question pe question pucha gaya Speaker ji, Per hul nahi mila, bus mili hein to Question” – The same questions and the same textbook answers repeat year after year and may be a bit of onion tears every now and then.

References:

  • Loksabha.nic.in
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