With onion prices showing little signs of easing, the Centre is now looking to ban the export of dehydrated onions, after curbing export of normal onions, said senior officials. On Tuesday, it reduced the stock holding limit for retailers to 5 tonnes from 10 tonnes, and for wholesalers to 25 tonnes from 50 tonnes, according to an order issued by the Consumer Affairs Ministry.
The revised stock holding limit is not applicable to imported onions, an official statement added.
The proposal to ban dehydrated onions was brought up in the group of ministers’ meeting on Monday, the officials said. Dehydrated onions are those that have dried and from which all moisture is removed to enhance the shelf life. These can then be stored without refrigeration.
India exported $102 million worth of dehydrated onions in 2018-19, up from $91 million in the previous year. While exports have been steady in the current fiscal year at $71 million, it’s a very small category, they added.
Major destinations are Germany, Russia, the US, and Brazil. Onion prices in the meantime, touched Rs 100 a kilogram in several parts of the country, while in Kolkata it reached Rs 150 a kg.
“At Nasik, the highest wholesale rate was Rs 5,400 per 40 kg, which translates to Rs 135 a kg,” said Sibu Malakar, a Kolkata-based agri analyst.
The West Bengal government has been selling onions at subsidised rates through ‘Sufal Bangla’ stores and mobile vans. The Centre has already banned onion exports and decided to import 120,000 tonnes, besides imposing stock holding limit on traders.
People in the know had, on Sunday, said that state-owned trading firm MMTC, which is importing onion on behalf of the Centre, has placed an order of 11,000 tonnes of the commodity from Turkey. The Opposition Congress attacked the government over high onion prices and accused BJP members in Parliament of creating a ruckus in order to prevent a discussion on the important issue.
The attack by the Opposition party came amid rising prices of onions that were selling at a high price of Rs 75-100 per kg in major cities.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress’ leader in Lok Sabha, took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he had said “Na khaaoonga na khaane doonga (will neither indulge in corruption, nor allow others to do so)”, but middlemen were indulging in corruption.
The Congress gave a notice for adjournment motion to discuss the issue of onion prices, but when the opportunity “came for us to speak”, the ruling party people began to create a ruckus for no reason.