States observe fresh harvest, cold onions imported

NEW DELHI: In less than a month, the government faces the problem of abundance, as the states seem reluctant to raise imported onions with the arrival of a new crop that begins to cool prices. Thursday onion price in Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale onion market, was Rs 3,500 per quintal as against a record-high of Rs 8,600 last month.

The high prices across most cities might wane with arrival of more kharif crops in mandis. The fresh harvest would not only moderate prices but also seems to be reducing states’ interest to lift imported onion from the central buffer. The Centre has contracted import of about 45,000 tonnes, of which over 5,000 tonnes have already arrived. Though there was a plan to import one lakh tonnes of the kitchen staple, it has been put on hold. “First we have to dispose of the quantity that has arrived and shipment that are on the way. Some states are taking imported onion , but that’s much less than what they had indicated to check prices,” said an official.

The concern is also evident in a recent tweet from the consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan . “As per target fixed, consignments of imported onion have started arriving from December 15 onwards and approx 42,500 tonnes of onion stock is available. I request state governments to send their demand to department of consumer affairs and NAFED to augment onion supply,” he tweeted.

Sources said that even in the retail market there are few takers of imported onion s as it lacks the pungency or taste Indian consumers like. The government is now planning to increase the buffer stock of domestic onion this year.

TOI has learnt that the issue of states lifting less imported onion was also discussed in a meeting of Group of Ministers headed by home minister Amit Shah .

Officials said that the states will have to help dispose of the onion stock to avoid “losses” as the perishable item cannot be stored for long. Earlier, the government had said that there was about 50% “loss” to the 57,000 tonnes of onion it had stored this year after procuring directly from farmers.

The sources said that the abnormal price in recent months was due to the shortage and delay in the arrival of fresh crops and the effect of flooding in some parts, which caused the need to import. But the situation is improving very quickly as the arrival of fresh crops increases. “There is a significant price correction in all markets. The situation will improve and prices in the retail market will fall soon, ”said an official.