Onion shortage temporary, says Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar
Government today asserted the onion shortage was only "temporary" and prices are expected to fall in the next 2-3 weeks as production of the kitchen staple is unlikely to drop despite damages due to excessive rains.
"Onion shortage is a temporary situation. Heavy rains have affected crops in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Total area under the crop is higher than last year. No drop in production expected," Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters.
Echoing similar views, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said there is no "real" scarcity of onions in the country and prices are expected to stabilise in the coming few weeks.
Onion prices touched Rs 100 per kg yesterday in some major cities as supplies remained tight. The prices are expected to come down in the next 2-3 weeks with arrival likely to increase from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan, Pawar said here.
"Production is good. The question is when the crop will come in a big way to the markets," he said, adding the situation will improve in the coming days.
On reasons for sharp spike in retail prices, Pawar said: "In Nashik, farmers are getting Rs 45 per kg. I don't understand why it should sell at Rs 90 per kg here. Government does not control onions and does not sell onions. Prices are determined by the market."
Stating that there is no real shortage of onions, Sharma said: "I expect prices to stabilise in coming few weeks. We cannot blame exports because Minimum Export Price (MEP) has been raised and there are hardly any exports." There was crop loss due to heavy rains and this has encouraged hoarding, he added.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit held a meeting with Pawar and Food Minister K V Thomas on the crisis. "The situation is serious. We are trying to stabilise the prices. We will write to Election Commission to allow us to restart sale of onions through tempos (mobile vans)," she said after the meeting.
"Traders and hoarders are taking advantage of the situation. Nafed has been asked to improve supplies on a no-profit no-loss basis," Dikshit said.