Amid a nationwide furore over the skyrocketing of onion prices and some other essential commodities, coupled with a rise in inflation, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar reviewed the situation with a panel of Secretaries at a meeting on Thursday and promised that the financial burden on people would ease soon.

With reports of onion exports being banned and government agencies becoming pro-active to purchase the commodity in shortage, prices in various parts of the country started sobering a bit. State-run trading companies MMTC, STC and PEC have been asked to import onions.

It was decided at the meeting to move onions to deficit areas like Delhi.

In the wake of a fall in the prices in the wholesale markets across the country, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) on Thursday said it had deferred imports from Pakistan.

Officials said nearly 130 truckloads had arrived from Pakistan and another 40-50 were expected on Friday. Traders have contracted for around 1,000 tonnes from that country and more than half of that had arrived.

Mr. Chandrasekhar told reporters, “I understand that there is a shortfall in Maharashtra, but Karnataka has reasonably good supplies. Gujarat is also producing quite a lot of onions. We will try to make some more movements. We will do whatever is required to bring down the prices of onions.''

Tomato too costlier

Even as onion prices remained a matter of concern, the prices of tomatoes too rose sharply over the past one week, forcing the government to review the situation. The prices here shot up from around Rs.15 a kg to over Rs.40.

Blaming a poor crop and hoarders, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said some 1 million tonnes of the crop, against the annual production of 18 million tonnes, was lost due to unseasonal rains, but that supplies would be augmented through duty-free imports and a ban on exports. “Not a single onion will be allowed to go out of the country. Hoarders will be forced to bring it back to the market because they will not be allowed to export it,'' he said at a press conference here.

According to data compiled by the National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation, onion prices fell by 37 per cent in Lasalgaon (Maharashtra) to Rs. 4,000 a quintal on Thursday from Rs. 6,299 on December 20. In Pimpalgaon (also in Maharashtra), the fall was as steep as 52 per cent to Rs. 3,031 a quintal from Rs. 6,273 during the period under review.

In Delhi's Azadpur market, the wholesale prices declined by 40 per cent in the past three days, ruling at Rs 40-Rs. 45 a kg.

Prices dip in Dindigul

The wholesale market in Dindigul, one of the biggest markets in Tamil Nadu, saw a dip in the prices with the arrival of onions from Pakistan. From Rs. 90 a kg (for top quality big ones) and Rs.70 a kg (for medium quality) last week, the prices came down to Rs. 45 and Rs.35 on Thursday.

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