Mahrashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Wednesday called the Centre “anti-farmer” after it banned the export of onions, PTI reported. The central government had on Monday banned the export of all varieties of onions with immediate effect in a bid to bridge the demand and supply gap of the vegetable in the domestic market. The ban, however, will not apply to onions exported in sliced or in powder form.

“The Centre banned onion export at a time when cultivators were getting good prices for their produce,” Pawar said. “It is absolutely wrong. It is obvious that the Centre is anti-farmer.” The deputy chief minister also said the central government had committed a “great sin” by pushing farmers, who were already suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic, into deeper trouble.

Maharashtra Revenue Minister and state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat said that the prices of onions have fallen and asserted that his party will fight against the “injustice” meted out to farmers.

A day earlier, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had urged Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal to lift the ban and told him about farmers’ protests against the decision and the financial implications it would have on onion cultivators, The Indian Express reported.

“I brought to the notice of Union minister Piyush Goyal ji that onions are in good demand internationally and we have to been exporting them consistently,” he told reporters. “But a sudden decision by the central government is a major blow to India’s image as a reliable exporter of onions in the international market. Such a situation would give Pakistan and other onion exporters immense benefit.”

Onion cultivators in Maharashtra took the streets on Tuesday to protest against the government’s decision to ban the export of the vegetable. Farmers shut their shops and trading was halted at the agricultural produce market committee, or APMC, market in Nashik’s Lasalgaon – Asia’s largest onion hub. The farmers also blocked the Mumbai-Agra Highway. Protests took place in the states’ Ahmednagar city too. Prices of onion had fallen from Rs 2,950 per quintal to Rs 2,700 per quintal following the ban.

On Wednesday, Thorat had said the state government was trying to tackle the problems faced by farmers due to cyclones and floods and accused the Centre of not cooperating.

“Earlier, the Centre allowed milk powder import when there was lakhs of tonnes of milk powder in the country,” he said. “Due to this, milk prices came down. Now, when there is scope for farmers to earn some money due to onion export, the central government has stopped it.”