Imported onions stuck near JNPT Port could be soon be available at a much lesser cost to the consumers.
On Thursday, PTI reported that the Centre may soon offload imported onions at a highly subsidised rate of ₹22-23/kg, down around 60 per cent from the current offered rate, as it apprehends rotting of the perishable kitchen item at ports.
The Centre is currently offering imported onions to State governments at an average landed cost of ₹58/kg for further distribution in the retail market. It is also bearing the transportation cost.
BusinessLine could not independently confirm the rates offered by the Centre.
However, BusinessLine on Tuesday was first to report the issue of over 7,000 tonnes of imported onions in over in 250 refrigerated containers being held over a month at container freight stations (CFS) near the JNPT port, some of which had started rotting.
The PTI report further said that to curb spiralling onion prices, the government had in November 2019 decided to import 1.2 lakh tonnes of onion through state-run MMTC. Since then, MMTC purchased 14,000 tonnes of onion from the overseas market.
According to sources, a large quantity of imported onion is still lying at ports, especially in Maharashtra, as many States did not show interest in lifting the commodity at high rates at a time when retail prices started cooling down on arrival of fresh crop.
Many States withdrew their orders for lifting the imported onions as they could not retail it further owing to difference in taste compared with homegrown ones, the sources said. With few takers for imported onions, MMTC — which had placed orders for import of 40,000 tonnes — finally purchased only 14,000 tonnes and a large quantity of which is still lying at ports, the sources added.
Agencies like Nafed, Mother Dairy as well as some State governments can lift the imported onions at ₹22-23/kg for distribution in mandis, the report said.
The government was forced to import onion to contain prices, which have cooled down now to ₹60/kg from the peak of ₹160/kg in the last few months. In the government’s first estimate, onion production is set to rise by seven per cent to 24.45 million tonnes in the current 2019-20 crop year, which may bring relief to consumers, the report added.