We Should Have AMUL Model For Onion Marketing: Pushpendra Singh, President, Kisan Shakti Sangh
BW Businessworld spoke to Pushpendra Singh, President, Kisan Shakti Sangh, farmers union in India and got to know his perspective of onion saga.
Photo Credit : Shutterstock
The year 2017-18 had witnessed tonnes of onion rotting on roads in central and western Indian states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The same onion is making all consumers cry this year as well.
This has become a periodic issue for a nation like India with highly complex agricultural policies. BW Businessworld spoke to Pushpendra Singh, President, Kisan Shakti Sangh, farmers union in India and got to know his perspective of onion saga.
What has been done so far by the government to curb the price rise of onions?
Pushpendra Singh: Well, that is a difficult question to answer but Government has put its efforts to control the price rise. For instance the stock limits had been fixed for both wholesalers and retailers which is 25 tonnes and 2 tonnes respectively. Also, there has been continuous raids by the government for sellers involved in overstocking of onion. This is not a small effort though we may term is insufficient.
How do you look at the role of Ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution?
Pushpendra Singh: The wholesale price index has touched 16 months high mark and experts consider the vegetable prices as the main culprit behind this, but the minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution had surrendered to price rise. In fact, he had shown his inability to curb the phenomenon. As per my knowledge union cabinet secretary has been in talks with secretaries of major onion producer states on the subject.
Do you think imports will curb price rise of onions?
Pushpendra Singh: Look, we are major onion producers and imports of the same commodity is not an ordinary act. There has been the decision of importing around 1.2 lakh tonnes of onion from different nations, in fact, deals with nations as Egypt and Turkey had already been done for 21, 000 tonnes of onion. I believe all of these efforts are intended to curb price rise but look, we are not ordinary consumers of onions. India’s daily consumption is not less than 60, 000 tonnes for onions and I don’t think that imports will have much of an impact on the retail market also, it will take time to reach the imports to local markets.
What role did untimely rains had to play in the recent episode?
Pushpendra Singh: See, when government sniffed the spikes in prices during June. They have terminated the subsidy to onion exporters in the same month and subsequently they had imposed minimum export prices. Later on stock limits had been imposed but as a reality, untimely and heavy to very heavy rains had played evil. Entire Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka become a victim of heavy rains and that made things worse.
So, the government has no role to play in the recent episode?
Puspendra Singh: No, government’s efforts are insufficient they had to play their part for long time solutions and it is not visible on the ground.
What about Green mission of government? Do you think it will help in future to curb price rise?
Pushpendra Singh: First of all rains were delayed and then there were untimely rains which had steered to impact Kharif season sowing area for both tomato and onions also the other vegetables sown area had considerably fallen. For instance, Maharashtra is the state that produces almost one-third of entire onion production of the nation which is expected to fall from 70 lakh tonnes during previous year’s Kharif season to 52 lakh tonnes during this Kharif season as per government's projection. As far as operations green is a concern, there is an alarming shortage for the processing of tomatoes and quality storage for both onion and potato. The result is in front of everyone.
What is more important in case of onions to avoid these periodic price rise episodes?
Pushpendra Singh: For the entire horticulture produce in India, these three commodities namely, onion, potato and tomato has share of almost half of the entire horticulture production. Last year we have exported more than 22 lakh tonnes of onion and we were the largest exporter even though we had huge domestic demand for the same. You were right that operations green was a good step but we have to concentrate on basic infrastructure development. There are more than 8, 000 cold storage in the nation but most or almost 90 per cent of them stores potato in general. We never witness hue and cry in case of potato. Government has to think of creating a buffer stock of such commodities during the season to control such unexpected price rise. Creating 57, 000 tonnes of buffer stock is not sufficient for a day or two’s domestic demand. We have to go for 10 lakh tonnes of buffer stock for the same to handle such an unprecedented situation.
Which marketing model do you think will be most effective for price realisation to consumers and producers (farmers)?
Pushpendra Singh: A NABARD study shows that only 25 to 30 per cent of value reaches to the farmer that has been paid by consumers, middlemen are also the culprits. These people enjoy a huge chunk of paid-up price without many efforts. I consider Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation’s (GCMMFs) AMUL model for the marketing of such commodities. In the case of AMUL the producer gets 75 to 80 per cent of share for the price that consumer pays.