Despite the abnormally high price of onion in major cities, the government will not ban its export. It has, however, taken a decision to quickly import onions from Pakistan, Iran, China and Egypt.

Onion prices are threatening to touch Rs. 90 per kg in major cities. Even government outlets like the Mother Dairy in Delhi are selling the bulb at Rs. 68 per kg.

Indicating that there will be no immediate respite from the situation, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in Bangalore that the next two to three weeks will be tough. Normally, the kharif crop starts arriving by the end of October or early November.

The Ministry has convened a meeting of onion-producing States on Thursday to assess the situation and “find a solution.”

On Wednesday, the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India floated a tender for import of onion on government account. It has sought responses before October 30. To hasten the process, Nafed has decided to allow fumigation of imported produce that arrive without fumigation and Phytosanitary treatment, at Indian ports. Such a consignment would be inspected by quarantine officials and released only if found free of pests and diseases of concern to India.

Normally, consignments that arrive without fumigation are subject to “four times the penal fees’’ but Nafed has decided to waive that.

Extended rain in onion-producing States such as Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, and Cyclone Phailin in Andhra Pradesh are said to have had an adverse impact. But overall, it is felt that some big framers and traders are holding on to the produce for speculation.

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