Angry farmers tried to throw tomatoes and onions on the road where Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s car and convoy were passing during Pawar’s tour of Nashik district on Saturday. On Saturday morning, farmers waved black flags at the minister to draw his attention to falling produce prices.
The incident occurred while Ajit Pawar was traveling from Ojhar airport to Dindori, and his fleet of vehicles was attacked by disgruntled farmers who chanted slogans against the state government and threw onions and tomatoes at the convoy.
Farmers protested and demanded the removal of a 40% export duty on onions and measures to provide financial aid to tomato growers.
A strong group of police from nearby Kalwan managed to reach the spot and took away many of the protesters without any untoward incident.
“We condemn government policies that marginalize farmers. “We want export duties on onions to be removed and a reasonable minimum support price to be set for tomatoes,” said one of the protesters.
Later in the day, while addressing party workers in Kalwan, Ajit Pawar said that all efforts will be made to provide respite to farmers.
“I urge tomato producers not to throw their products on the street. The government is with you and is trying to find ways for farmers to get a break. For onion farmers, the state government is in touch with the Center and exploring ways to help them,” Pawar said.
The deputy CM further said that tomato prices have fallen due to overproduction as farmers cultivated the produce on large lands after initially getting good prices. For onion farmers too, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) was asked to purchase it in $2,450 per quintal, he said.
At the beginning of July-August, tomato prices had touched $200 per kilo, however, an excellent harvest in the following days caused a drastic drop in prices with rates in the range of $10-15/kg depending on the markets, seriously affecting producers.
Similarly, onion farmers in Nashik went on strike for 13 days, halting wholesale trade to demand removal of export duty on this key vegetable.
The strike was suspended on October 3 following assurances given by the government, but the wholesale traders have given a one-month ultimatum to the authorities to act, otherwise they would go on strike again.