A protest in Jammu on Friday against onion prices.
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The tight supply in the domestic market was caused mostly by late rains destroying the early kharif harvest.
With onion prices breaching the ₹100 per kg mark in Delhi and soaring to ₹80 in other metros, the Centre has decided to import the staple from Dubai, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. The first shipments are likely to arrive by November 15, according to officials in the Consumer Affairs Ministry.
Public sector trading agency MMTC, which operates under the Commerce Ministry, has issued a tender to import 2,000 tonnes from Dubai, where stocks are available, said an official.
The decision to immediately import a “substantial amount” was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Friday. It was attended by Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K. Srivastava and senior officials of the Agriculture Ministry, the Horticulture Department and state-run agencies.
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) had a 55,000 tonne buffer stock, which it offered for distribution and resale by States. The continued high prices have resulted in this buffer dwindling to around 1,500 tonnes, officials said.
The tight supply in the domestic market was caused mostly by late rains destroying the early kharif harvest and disrupting storage and transport, even as last season’s rabi stocks ran out.
Norms eased for onion imports
The Union government decided to import onion as its efforts to increase supply by banning exports and setting stock limits for retailers and traders also failed to tame prices.
The situation was exacerbated by hoarders and black-marketers
“Public sector trading agency MMTC has been requested to immediately import a substantial amount of onions from Dubai and other countries,” said a Corporate Affairs Ministry statement issued after the meeting with the Cabinet Secretary. The mandatory time for issuing import tenders was relaxed.
“A team of officials of MMTC, NAFED, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Consumer Affairs has been directed to visit Turkey and Egypt on an urgent basis to take stock of the supplies in these countries and facilitate imports,” added the statement. Until November 30, the phytosanitary and fumigation norms have also been liberalised.
NAFED is taking steps to speed up its domestic procurement, especially from Alwar in Rajasthan. At least 12 States have indicated severe shortages, officials said. NAFED is facilitating supply of 300 tonnes daily.