New Delhi: With onion prices hitting Rs 70-80 per kg in most parts of the country, the central government has floated tenders for the import of 10,000 tonnes of onions, it was announced on Saturday.
"Government of India has been keeping a close watch on the rise in prices of onions. A decision has been taken by the government to import onions and a tender has also been floated for 10,000 MT of onions which will be opened on August 27," a government spokesman said here.
Onion prices have been on the rise across the country in the past one month. At many places, onion prices crossed the Rs.70 per kg mark on Thursday with most people complaining that the government was not doing enough to contain price rise.
The Nashik-based National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF), in its latest report, said that the onion prices are likely to remain on the higher side till September-end.
Wholesale dealers have indicated that if the present trend continues, onions could soon hit the Rs.100 per kg mark.
The government also announced on Saturday that Minimum Export Price (MEP) of onions would now be raised to $700 per metric tonne (MT) to ensure that onions are not exported and are made available in the domestic market.
The MEP was last increased from $250 per MT to $425 per MT on June 26, the spokesman said.
Noting that onion prices were being reviewed regularly, he said that the secretary, consumer affairs department will hold a meeting with various government departments and agencies on Monday to review the action taken to keep the prices in check.
"To intervene in the market, Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) and NAFED have procured 5,857 MT of onion. This has been funded out of Price Stabilisation Fund meant to keep prices of essential commodities under control," the spokesman said.
"SFAC is supplying onions at Rs.30.50 per kg to SAFAL, which is retailing at Rs.39 per kg in Delhi. SFAC is also selling onions to consumers at Rs.35 per kg through 120 milk booths of DMS (Delhi Milk Supply). A decision was also taken by Government of Delhi to sell onions at subsidized rate of Rs.40 per kg through 280 Fair Price Shops, which was further reduced to Rs.30 per kg from August 12," he said.
The spokesman said that price of onions has been "rising on account of a decline in total production from 189.23 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 as against 194.02 lakh tonnes in 2013-14 i.e. a decrease of 4.79 lakh tonnes".
"The shortfall has primarily been on account of adverse weather conditions including unseasonal rains which has impacted both the standing and harvested crop at the major producing centres," he added.
The central government has directed that action be taken against those hoarding and black-marketing of onions.
The NHRDF pointed out that out of the storage stock of 40 lakh tonnes in July this year, 50 percent has been consumed and only about 16-18 lakh tonnes is left.
With the festival season round the corner in Maharashtra, which produces the maximum onions but has been hit by an ongoing dry spell in most parts of state, onion prices could breach the Rs.100 per kg mark in urban centres like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur in the next couple of weeks.
Onion prices in other states and cities too are in the Rs.70-80 per kg bracket in retail, upsetting the budget of most homes and establishments.