Soon after allowing the export of 2,000 tonnes of white onion, the Union government announced on Saturday its decision to permit the export of an additional 99,150 tonnes of onion to six countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, UAE, Bahrain, and Mauritius. Despite the ban on onion exports since last year, the government has been granting specific quantities in response to diplomatic requests.

The ban has been imposed to ensure adequate domestic availability amid lower kharif and rabi crops in 2023-24 and increased demand in international market. The National Cooperative Exports Limited (NCEL) has been the nodal agency for export of all prohibited agri produce including onion, sugar and rice.

Earlier this month in separate orders, the government had allowed export of up to 2,000 tonnes of white onion to Middle-East and some European countries via three specified ports in the West Coast after certified by Gujarat government. It also had allowed 20,000 tonnes to the UAE and 10,000 tonnes to Sri Lanka. With current announcement, total quantity permitted so far in 2024-25 fiscal exceeds 1.30 lakh tonnes (lt).

The Consumer Affairs Ministry in a statement said that NCEL has been sourcing the domestic onions to be exported through e-platform at L1 prices and supplied to the agency or agencies nominated by the government of the destination country at the negotiated rate on 100 per cent advance payment basis.

“The offer rate of NCEL to the buyers takes into account the prevailing prices in the destination market and also international and domestic markets. The quota allocated for export to the six countries are being supplied as per requisition made by the destination country. As the largest producer of onion in the country, Maharashtra is the major supplier of onions sourced by NCEL for export,” it said.

The statement assumes significance amid reported discontent among onion farmers over continuing the ban on export.

The ministry also said that procurement target for onion buffer out of Rabi 2024 season under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) of the Department of Consumer Affairs has been fixed at 5 lt this year. Central agencies such as NCCF and NAFED are tying up local agencies such as FPOs/FPCs/PACs to support the procurement, storage and farmers registration to begin the procurement of any store-worthy onion, the government said.

A high level team of the Centre had visited Nashik and Ahmednagar of Maharashtra during April 11-13 to create awareness among farmers, FPOs/FPCs and PACs about the procurement of onion for buffer stock.

The Rabi onion production is set to dip to 193 lt in 2023-24 (July-June) against 236 lt year-ago, a fall of 18 per cent. Rabi onion is critical for the domestic availability as it contributes 72 -75 per cent of annual production. The Rabi crophas better shelf life compared to Kharif onion and can be stored for supplies till November-December.