A day after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke at length about expanding agricultural exports, the government removed the restriction on onion shipments. It has removed the minimum export price (MEP) on onion and allowed domestic traders to ship out all its varieties. “We are taking all measures to promote export of agriculture products,” tweeted Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu. Back in November, the government had imposed an MEP of $850, or Rs 54,000, a tonne. Such limits are imposed every now and then to discourage foreign traders from buying at a time when lack of supply lifts prices beyond a certain limit. However, traders had complained they were already fighting heavy competition abroad from producers in Egypt and Pakistan. India is the second-largest producer of onion after China but is also among the largest consumers. The MEP decision had been taken after the price had risen to its highest in two years.
Retail prices across major cities had been Rs 40-50 a kg. From there, prices had recently crashed as supply entered the market. Friday’s move might also have been a response to that, a sector insider said. At the largest wholesale onion market, Lasalgaon in Maharashtra’s Nashik district, prices per quintal dipped from Rs 2,850 to Rs 2,400 over the past month.