NAFED to buy, transport onions to control prices

Cooperative major NAFED will buy onions, store the commodity and arrange for their transportation to Delhi and surrounding markets in order to cool prices that hit the roof over the past two weeks.

The apex body of marketing cooperatives for agricultural produce in India is also exploring buying potatoes for the government. 

Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung on Wednesday held a meeting with senior officials to review the prices of onions and potatoes, and their availability.  

In Delhi, all SAFAL outlets across the city have been asked to sell onions and potatoes and increase their stocks. There are approximately 400 SAFAL outlets in Delhi.

The rise in prices of onions and potatoes pushed inflation to a five-month high in May. Incidentally, there is a shortage in the production of these vegetables in the country at present. 

However, speculative hoarding is supposed to be a major contributor to the artificial shortage and flare-up of prices in the past week. 

The government has also announced that it will impose a minimum export price on potatoes in line with onions to curb price rise and outbound shipment.

A large quantity of onions are being exported to Pakistan. In the current financial year itself,  around 40,000 tonnes of potatoes have been exported to the neighbouring country from Attari border, according to estimates.

Pakistan has given massive exemption on import duty to its traders on import of potatoes from India, in a move to curb its own local prices from going northward.Delhi will also take steps to sell onions and potatoes through mobile vans across the city. Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board has been instructed to issue daily advertisements in newspapers so that people are informed about the daily rates of onions and potatoes.

Despite all measures, these vegetables were being sold at a price higher by Rs 5 in retail markets in Delhi on Wednesday. 

LG meeting

The LG's meeting was attended Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Finance), Commissioner (Department of Food and Civil Supplies), Divisional Commissioner, Special Commissioner of Delhi Police, Managing Director (NAFED), representatives of SAFAL stores were present.

“During the meeting, the officials ensured that strict action will be taken against hoarders,” the government said in a statement. The city government fears that sensing a weak monsoon, the hoarders will become active and the prices of onions and potatoes will rise. “The NAFED can store onions up to 400 tonnes and the capacity can be increased further if needed. The LG will review the process of buying onions on Thursday,” the government said.

The city government has decided to approach the Centre requesting enforcement of control orders under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 which prescribes stock limit on certain commodities.

“If the Act is enforced, it will be easy for the city government and police to check and prevent hoarding in Delhi,” the government said.

The government is also issuing a notification on deregulation of marketing of perishable commodities, like fruit and vegetables, under Section 3 of the Delhi Agriculture Produce Marketing (regulation) Act, 1998. 

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