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Although the state government has directed market committees in Maharashtra to remain open during the lockdown, Sangli-Tasgaon District Raisin Association (SDRA) has called off raisin auctions in Sangli district indefinitely due to the lockdown.
Rajendra Kumbhar, president of the association, said some of the employees and traders in Sangli and Tasgaon market committees have tested positive. Since the traders and farmers do not follow social distancing norms, it would be better to call off the auctions until the virus scare subsides, he said. Kumbhar pointed out that buyers, mostly traders, come from across the country to buy the raisins here and can also spread the virus.
Last year, raisin auctions had initially gone online in March as a pilot project of eNAM and it had worked for a while until the outbreak of Covid. Now auctions are being conducted in the old-fashioned way at the APMC. Sangli is known for the production of raisin and turmeric. The region does a total trade of nearly Rs 500 crore in raisins annually.
Raisins have been commanding prices between Rs 180 per kg to 271 per kg and therefore farmers were disappointed at the cancellation of the auctions. The production of raisins from the grapes grown in the region starts in January and last till April-end. This time, however, workers from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have returned to their hometowns putting a strain on local workers in the last phase of raisin production, traders said. Around 6000 workers are employed in raisin sheds in Sangli and Tasgaon regions. This year, raisin production began two months late due to untimely rains, hailstorms and changing weather conditions.The auctions were called off last year as well due to the coronavirus scare and had affected the raisin trade. The raisin production in the state is around 1.80 lakh tonnes and has gone up to nearly 2.5 lakh tonnes this season.