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Virus at Asia’s largest onion market sparks govt concern

April 06, 2020 05:59 AM


Virus at Asia’s largest onion market sparks govt concern

Zia Haq

New Delhi : A corona positive case in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, which came to light on March 30, has forced Asia’s largest onion trading market, Lasalgaon, to suspend operations, affecting supplies, a market official said.

Panic spread far and wide, prompting six villages adjoining Lasalgoan to bar the entry and exit of people from outside, according to the official. These villages are the main source of labour and are also home to traders who transact in the market.

This disrupted supplies across the country. The Lasalgoan market is now set to open on Tuesday, the official said.

“We at Lasalgaon have decided to resume trading on Tuesday (April 7). The district collector ordered the shutdown because the corona positive case was a major bakery supplier who regularly supplied pav (Indian bread) to the entire area,” said Narendra Wadhwane, the secretary of the Lasalgaon agriculture produce market committee or APMC.

APMCs are state-regulated bodies that run wholesale markets in the country under the APMC Act.

“Onion supplies to rest of India are down 35% due to closure of the financial year in March, lack of labour due to the lockdown and the emergence of the corona case in Nashik. I hope we will have adequate labour when we resume operations,” he said.

According to a government note accessed by HT on Sunday, Maharashtra officials have compiled a list of all onion traders and suppliers and shared the list to counterparts in various states so that they could directly get in touch with supply agents.

While Lasalgaon, a crucial nationwide supplier of onions, shut down due to the coronavirus scare, neighbouring Pimpalgaon, another onion trading hub, had been nearly idle since March 26, Wadhwane said.

“Too many things coincided. Two cultural events, Gudi Parva and Amawasya, had resulted in diminished trading in the last week of March. The corona case then totally cut off labour,” said Prakash Kumawat, the assistant secretary of the APMC market.

According to the market’s chief Wadhwane, of the 17 APMC markets in Nashik, which is part of a supply chain serving various trading points in the country, only two were open briefly — Lasalgaon and Chandwar.

“Without labour, wholesale buying and selling came to a halt,” he said. He said traders were able to send 40% of shipments.

According to a government note accessed by HT, the principal secretary of agricultural marketing recommended market committees to tell farmers to bring harvest pre-packed in gunny backs to speed up trade. “These gunny bags come in various capacities, mostly 50kg packs. So it’s easy to load in the absence of weighmen,” said Wadhwane.

However, Wadhwane said farmers did not have access to gunny bags. Every establishment was closed due to the corona scare.

“Since the lockdown, 1,650 truckloads of onions have been dispatched by traders of Nashik district to various parts of the country, which has helped in maintaining in steady supplies,” the government note said. According to Wadhwane, that’s about 35% less than usual supplies.

According to an officer who is part of the empowered group, the government crisis group has been discussing how to tackle this for the past few days. They said that with the centre state coordination, they will ensure farmers can directly sell. They also said that they are working on getting the mandi opened quicker

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