Mumbai/New Delhi, Jan 10 (JNN): On a day when onion prices hit dirt due to the traders going on a strike in Nashik and farmers selling their produce in Mumbai directly, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar refused to eliminate middlemen, thus keep prices low.

Though Pawar said “it was a good sign” that the farmers were selling their produce directly in markets, he said middlemen could not be just wished away.
He added it was good for the consumers as well as for the farmers.

In Navi Mumbai, farmers brought their produce directly to the APMC Market of Vashi and started selling onions at prices as cheap as just Rs.10 per kilogram.

The farmers collectively hired around 160 trucks from Nashik and surrounding districts and reached the market.

On Sunday, onion traders in Nasik District decided not to purchase onions for two days – Monday and Tuesday -- from Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) to protest state government's directive that onions should not sell over Rs.40 per kg.

Income Tax department on Sunday raided houses and godowns of four onion traders -- two in Lasalgaon and one each at Nashik and Pimpalgaon, but did not find evidence of onion hoarding.

The APMC will open on Tuesday, and auctions of fresh incoming stocks would be held.


‘Govt to be cautious on export of agri-items’

The government will adopt a cautious approach on allowing export of agricultural items in view of high food inflation of over 18 per cent, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Monday.

However, he said that there is no plan to suspend exports of five lakh tonnes of sugar, which has recently been allowed under Open General Licence (OGL).

"Not yet. We have not taken a decision," Pawar told reporters when asked if the government would ban sugar exports.

At present, the government has banned export of non-basmati rice, wheat, pulses and onion.

"The government is cautious (on exports of agri-items) because food inflation has gone over 18 per cent. We have to give a serious thought to each and every item," Pawar said.

He mentioned that there is demand from states like Andra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to allow export of certain varieties of non-basmati rice.

"We have not taken a decision (on rice export). We have to take some views," he said.

On food prices, the minister said that barring vegetables, including onion, prices of rice, wheat and pulses are stable in the country. "By and large, there is no problem," he added.

On sugar production, Pawar said, "Based on reports from states, we expect sugar production to be 24.5 million tones in the 2010-11 crop year (October-September)."

Last year, sugar production was around 19 million tonnes. The minister also expressed confidence that wheat output may exceed last year's level of 80.7 million tonnes.

"Overall, wheat crop is good. Looks like production will exceed last year's level," he said.