Concerned at the rising prices of onions, the Cabinet Secretary on Tuesday sought the latest position on the production and arrivals from the Agriculture Ministry and the Department of Consumer Affairs. He may call a meeting of senior officials to review the position on Wednesday, official sources indicated.

The Centre has decided to import about 250 tonnes of the bulb to tackle the crisis.

The import price of onion is ruling between Rs. 24 and Rs. 54 per kg in Iran, China and Pakistan markets as against the average domestic price of Rs. 80 in most retail cosmopolitan markets. This time round the wholesale price is ruling at an average of Rs. 52 mainly on account of higher diesel prices.

Even as the demand for banning export of onion is growing louder, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said the minimum export price was already as high as $900 per tonne but could be re-visited if the situation demanded.

The price situation depends on production and market arrivals. Normally kharif (Oct.-Dec.) production and arrivals from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar meet the needs of consumers till the end of the year.

The kharif production in Maharashtra this year was projected to be 8.74 lakh tonnes, but sources said the arrivals were not commensurate with output.

The total production of onion this year at 166.55 lakh tonnes is lower by 4.89 per cent than last year’s. Exports between April and September this year were 7.16 lakh tonnes as against 10.02 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period last year.

According to NAFED chief, Sanjeev Chopra, if all goes well, India will import five to 10 containers of onion, each containing 25 tonnes, in the next 10 days.

Onions are not covered under the Essential Commodities Act, preventing the government from imposing stock limits on storage.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, in a statement, attributed the sharp price rise to “the use of black money in the wholesale onion market to hoard vast stocks in the name of forward trading permitted in agriculture.”

Seeking early Lok Sabha elections “so that the country could avoid further erosion of economic activity,” he said “the sharp rise in onion prices and essential commodities as well as the sharp fall in the value of rupee were directly connected to the corrupt short-selling activity in essential commodities and currency.”

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