Onion auctions at Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb, have come to a grinding halt for an indefinite period following three cases of Covid-19 reported on Tuesday night. This is likely to hit onion supplies across the country.
Suvarna Jagtap, chairperson, Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), told FE that three cases of coronavirus were reported at Lasalgaon at a distance of 3 km from the main market yard. A doctor running a private clinic and two nurses working at the clinic reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 and therefore as per regulations, the market committee has decided to shut down auctions till further notice, Jagtap said.
According to the chairperson, a person from Malegaon — a Covid-19 hotspot — had reported positive for coronavirus a week ago and when the authorities began tracing the wherabouts the person had visited, the name of the doctor came up. The authorities then tested the doctor and the nurses at the clinic and three of them tested positive, she said. Therefore, the entire area has been sealed and patients who had visited the doctor during the week have been quarantined, she said.
Some of the markets in Nashik district were already been shut down due to the Covid-19 scare. After a person tested positive for Covid-19 in Chandwad taluka, the Chandwad APMC has remained shut since April 15.
Most other markets near Malegaon including Satana, Yeola, Manmad, Umrane, Kopargaon were shut due to the coronavirus scare.
This is for the second time in two months that the market has been shut down due to coronavirus. Last month, too, the Lasalgaon APMC had suspended onion auction for a few days after a person from the village near Lasalgaon was tested positive for Covid-19.
Lasalgaon had reverted to the auction of loose onions following a demand from farmers and Nafed. The average wholesale price has dropped by Rs 200 per quintal in the past three days. The average wholesale onion price at Lasalgaon APMC was recorded at Rs 650 per quintal on Wednesday as against Rs 850 per quintal last week.
According to market committee officials, there has been a rise in supply of onions in Lasalgaon APMC in the past three days after the auction of loose onions began with more than 70,000 quintal being auctioned between Monday and Wednesday.
The minimum and maximum wholesale onion prices at Lasalgaon on Wednesday were recorded at Rs 400 and Rs 738, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Centre has directed the National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) to commence procurement of 50,000 tonne of summer onions during the lockdown period towards creation of buffer stock. Accordingly, onion procurement began from Monday.