Centre floats tender for onion import

Pawar says hoarding, not exports, causing short supply

Centre floats tender for onion import

With onion prices ruling at Rs 100 a kg in some major cities as supplies were strained, the Centre on Wednesday initiated measures for import of the commodity to peg domestic prices.

While refusing to ban its export, the Union Ministry of Agriculture asked states to invoke the Essential Commodities Act to crackdown on hoarders. The National Agriculture Co-operative Marketing Federation (Nafed) floated a tender to import an unspecified quantity of onion. Nafed did not disclose the quantity of import fearing speculation in the international market. Federation sources told Deccan Herald that the quantity will be disclosed to the firms responding to the import call.

Nafed plans to import from Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and China where the prices range from Rs 20 to Rs 30 a kg.

According to data compiled by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, the average price in 57 major Indian cities stood at Rs 70 a kg with Jammu recording the highest price at Rs 90 a kg.

However, traders say onion is being sold at Rs 100 a kg in Patna and Jammu retail markets.

In Delhi, Jaipur and Chandigarh retail prices are ruling at Rs 80-90 a kg. Onions are available for Rs 60-80 a kg in Mumbai, Bhopal, Lucknow, Chennai, Guwahati, Srinagar, Imphal and Kolkata.

To ease the availability of onions, the government relaxed import norms by allowing fumigation of the products in India without penalty. The relaxation will stay till November 30, according to an official statement.

Marginal drop

In Maharashtra, with the fresh kharif crop trickling in, the average wholesale onion price showed a marginal decline at Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee of Rs 50 with the average price hovering between Rs 4,400 and Rs 4,500 per quintal on Wednesday.

The stocks of old onion aka summer crop having a shelf life of seven months has got over and since Monday, the kharif crop having a shelf life of two to three months have started trickling in, gradually bringing down the prices in Maharashtra towns with retail prices hovering between Rs 60 and Rs 65 per kg in Mumbai and adjoining satellite towns like Thane and Navi Mumbai.

On Wednesday, the kharif crop touched 1,950 quintals while the summer crop was around 510 quintals with extremely high-quality onions fetching price of Rs 5,972 per quintal.

Local media rejected the hoarding theory on grounds that the summer crop stocks were as good as over and stated that as the harvest of Kharif crop has just started ‘it would be  premature to forecast the output,’ and even found the surge in onion prices in Delhi, strange. Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in Bangalore on Wednesday that onion prices would stay high for another two to three weeks. “Looks like we will have to import onions from China and Egypt. 

Food Minister K V Thomas would meet NAFED officials on Thursday to decide on the quantum of import,” he added. He, however, refused to commit if the import would bring down the domestic price and shot back that he was no astrologer.

“But I know something about crops. In my assessment, this situation will continue for the next two to three weeks,” he said.

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