Commerce Minister terms it shocking and unfortunate

Even as onion prices show no signs of cooling down due to inconsistent supplies, the prices are likely to increase further with Pakistan deciding to ban its export to India through the Wagah border.

Terming it shocking, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday said the issue was being taken up with the concerned authorities in Islamabad.

“It is shocking and unfortunate that Pakistan has banned onion exports to India. We have urged them that the contracted quantities should be released,” Mr. Sharma said here. He said the government was also exploring all options.

Reports said authorities in Pakistan on Thursday stopped 300 truckloads of onion bound for India on the Wagah border, saying exports had to be curbed to control prices in their own country.

Mr. Sharma said that State-run State Trading Corporation (STC) and Projects Equipment Commodities (PEC) Ltd. had signed contracts for getting onions from Pakistan. “The matter has been discussed with the High Commissioner in Islamabad, who has already met the concerned officials in the neighbouring country.”

He said decisions taken should be implemented and the convoy of trucks should not have been stopped. Asked whether Pakistan's action was in retaliation to India restricting cotton exports, Mr. Sharma said New Delhi's decision was not aimed at Pakistan. The government had put a ceiling of 55 lakh bales on cotton exports for the current season.

He, however, said a large quantity of onions from Pakistan will be reaching Mumbai via the sea route shortly. The STC has also approached the External Affairs Ministry seeking its intervention in the issue. The STC and PEC were asked to import 300 tonnes and 1,000 tonnes of onions respectively to contain prices in the domestic market, which had skyrocketed to Rs.75-85/kg in retail markets on December 22 and continue to rule at Rs. 45-70/kg in metros.

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India, which was to store the onions imported from Pakistan and distribute it to retail outlets such as Kendriya Bhandar and Mother Dairy, said trucks were to cross Amritsar by afternoon and reach Delhi on Friday morning, but that did not happen. It has kept its storage facilities ready.

Pakistan, which started exporting onions to India in mid-December had been sending over 300 tonnes of onion every day, mainly through the Wagah border.

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