“The Centre is considering import of onion in order to augment supplies and contain rising prices,” K.V. Thomas, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs, has said.
The Minister told Business Line that he held talks with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and it was proposed to direct the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) to source onion from overseas markets.
The most likely origins are China and Egypt.
“Consumer Affairs Secretary and senior management of Nafed are set to discuss plans for import and distribution of onions,” the Minister said.
Onion crop in many parts of the country, especially in Maharashtra – the largest producer – has been affected by the extended run of the South-West monsoon.
Harvest and crop movement is delayed. There are also reports of some traders hoarding and cartelisation.
The Government is keen to break the stranglehold, if any, of traders.
“We have asked the State Governments to take stringent action in case hoarding of onion or cartelisation of traders is detected,” Prof Thomas asserted.
He was slated to speak with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on the issue.
In Delhi, onions are currently retailing at close to Rs 80 a kg.
With elections round the corner, there surely are concerns over not only high onion pries but also food inflation in general.
“I admit, there is some tightness in supplies at present; but we are hopeful, the situation will come under control and onion prices will moderate soon when new supplies hit the market,” the Minister said.
Our New Delhi Bureau adds: India will import more onions, if required, to contain the sharp rise in retail prices, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has said.
Onion prices across the country are on a steady rise due to supply shortage with retail prices in Delhi set to cross Rs 100 a kg. Passing on major responsibility of the price escalation to States, the Minister said that hoarding of onions was the main reason behind artificial scarcity and sharp rise in prices and States need to act firmly against hoarders. The Minister was speaking to reporters at a meet of CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries organised by industry body CII. Sharma said that despite adequate domestic availability, if required India would import more onions.
“If there is a need and we receive such a proposal, we will import onions to tide over the crisis and stabilise the situation,” the Minister added. Onion prices had started rising in July this year crossing Rs 30 in some markets as supplies got affected due to the effect of last year’s drought in some onion-growing States.
In August, prices rose further as supplies fell to a third at 17,000 tonnes compared to about 45,000 tonnes supplied in August 2012.
To prevent onions from being shipped out of the country, the Government imposed a minimum export price of $650 a tonne in September which it subsequently increased to $900.
Last month, the Government imported onions from Pakistan, Egypt and China through public sector procurement agency Nafed, which helped to cool prices a bit. However, due to recent heavy rains in some parts of the country and increased consumption due to festivities, supplies are constrained again pushing up prices.
Earlier, speaking at the meet, the Minister said that India and the CLMV countries should look to deepen bilateral partnerships in areas such as agriculture, mining, oil and gas, energy, healthcare, skills development, and textiles.
Stressing on the importance of building overland, air and sea connectivity between India and the CLMV countries, Sharma said extension of the Trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway Project to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will open up huge opportunities for trade, investment and tourism flows.