With onion prices continuing to rule high at Rs 80-90 per kg, the government on Wednesday extended prohibitions on traders from the stocking of edible bulb across the country for an indefinite period. Separately, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan did not say by when prices of onion will normalise. "It's not in our hand, the government is making maximum efforts but who can win from nature," he told reporters when asked by when onion prices will come down to reasonable level.
Besides stock holding limit, he said, the Centre has banned exports of onion and importing 1.2 lakh tonnes to control prices. Onion prices are ruling at Rs 70-80 per kg in retail markets across major cities.
"Stockholding limit on retailers and wholesalers are being further extended until further orders," an official statement said. The stock holding limit was imposed in September. At present, retailers can stock onion only up to 100 quintals and wholesale traders are allowed to keep up to 500 quintals.
The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting, chaired by Consumer Affairs Secretary A K Srivastava, to monitor the price and availability of onions across the country. The consumer affairs secretary has written to chief secretaries of all states asking them to suitably reduce the stock limits further in their states as per the availability and prices.
They have been asked to strictly enforce these stock limits and send an action taken report on a weekly basis. State-owned MMTC informed that the first shipment of onions from Egypt would arrive in the second week of December. The public sector trading firm has contracted imports of 6,090 tonnes of onions. It has floated a country-specific tender.
Expressing concern over the price rise, Paswan said the situation is being closely monitored by a team of five Union ministers chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah. Finance minister, agriculture minister and road transport minister are also members of the group of ministers.
The group of ministers has already held one meeting and another one will be held soon, he said. On November 19, Paswan had said onion production in Kharif and late-Kharif seasons of 2019-20 is estimated to fall 26 per cent to 5.2 million tonnes due to a delayed monsoon and then excessive rains in key growing areas.
The buffer stock of 57,000 tonnes of onions has been liquidated and therefore the Centre decided to import. Meanwhile, MMTC has been asked to work out modalities of transportation of sealed container of onions from Mumbai port directly to FHEL facility at Rai, Sonipat in Haryana.
Agriculture Ministry in consultation with National Horticulture Board will provide an assessment about shelf-life in cold storage facility of imported onions from Egypt. MMTC has informed that onions from Turkey/Holland can be stored for relatively longer periods as compared to those from Egypt given the respective climatic conditions.