The Center asks states to act against onion hoarders and create reserve reserves

New Delhi, December 2 () The Center on Monday asked state governments to take strong measures against merchants that hog onions, create regulatory stocks and distribute imported edible bulbs at a reasonable price to relieve the common man of high prices.

Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting of the Secretaries Committee to review the issue of rising onion prices across the country, according to an official statement.

Onions are sold at a high price of Rs 75-100 per kg in the main cities.

In a videoconference with the Main Secretaries of the 11 main onion producing states, Gauba received information on the various steps they are taking to control onion prices.

The main secretaries of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana participated in the videoconference.

The cabinet secretary told states that the general availability of onions has to be strengthened, considering the temporary shortage, to stabilize prices, the statement said.

The Center has already banned onion exports and decided to import 1.2 lakh tons of onion, in addition to imposing a stock limit on traders.

The states were also ordered to maintain considerable intermediate reserves, impose stock limits on merchants and ensure strict measures against hoarding, the statement said.

Gauba said the central government approved the import of 11,000 tons of onions to overcome the situation. Deliveries are expected for the last week of December.

This adds to the import of 6,090 tons of onions from Egypt, whose deliveries are expected for the second week of December.

The cabinet secretary ordered states to use their food and civil supplies departments to obtain and distribute onions at reasonable prices, the statement said.

The secretaries of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Public Distribution also attended the meeting.

On Sunday, sources said the state trading company MMTC, which is importing onion on behalf of the Center, has placed an order for 11,000 tons of edible bulb from Turkey.

According to data from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, the average sale price of onion on Monday is Rs 80 per kg, while the maximum rate is Rs 140 per kg in Port Blair.

The onion is sold at Rs 76 per kg in the national capital, Rs 87 in Mumbai, Rs 90 per kg in Calcutta and Rs 80 per kg in Chennai.

The lowest price of Rs 40 per kg was reported by Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh, the data showed.

The ministry monitors the prices of 22 commodities based on data collected from 109 market centers throughout the country.

On November 19, the Minister of Food and Consumer Affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan, said onion production in the kharif and late kharif seasons of 2019-20 is estimated to drop 26 percent to 5.2 million tons .

Onion is a seasonal crop with a harvest period of rabi (March to June), kharif (October to December) and late-kharif (January-March). From July to October, the supply in the market comes from the stored onions of the rabi season (sown in winter).

During 2019-20, there was a 3-4 week delay in planting, as well as a decrease in the area sown of the kharif onion due to the late arrival of the monsoon, Paswan had said.

In addition, prolonged premature rains in the main producing states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh during the harvest period caused damage to standing crops in these regions. It is not in our hands, the government is making maximum efforts, but who can win from nature, he told reporters recently when asked when onion prices will fall to a reasonable level. MJH RVK