With onion prices skyrocketing to Rs 65-70 per kg, the government today allowed state-owned agencies like MMTC to import the kitchen staple to boost domestic supply and check price rise. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Price Stabilisation Fund Management Committee, headed by Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava. "In the meeting, the decision was taken to import onions through government agencies to augment the availability of onions in the market and moderate prices," Srivastava said in a statement. That apart, cooperative Nafed and Small Farmers' Agriculture-Business Consortium (SFAC) have been asked to procure 10,000 tonnes and 2,000 tonnes, respectively, from the producing areas and supply it to the markets, he said. "This will help enhance the availability of onion and moderate prices," he added. The import quantity has not been decided yet. MMTC will issue tenders. The crop could be sourced from countries like Egypt and China, a senior official told PTI. So far, the consumer affairs ministry has been facilitating onion imports through private traders, who have purchased 11,400 tonnes from the overseas market. To discourage speculative and unscrupulous trade, the Department of Consumer Affairs has empowered states to impose stock limit on onion. For more than a month, onion prices have been on rise due to tight supplies.
At present, retail prices of onion are ruling high in the range of Rs 65-70 per kg in the national capital and other cities. The tight supply is due to likely drop in area sown under the kharif (summer) onion crop owing to unseasonal rains. It is expected that there could be at least 10 per cent fall in the total kharif output, a senior consumer affairs ministry official said. It may be noted that 40 per cent of the country's total onion crop is produced in the kharif season, and the rest during the rabi season. The kharif crop, however, cannot be stored. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat are major onion producing states.
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