Asks Nafed to augment supplies through import and direct purchase

With onion prices soaring to Rs. 80 per kilogram in most of the retail markets, the Centre has decided to crack down on hoarders by invoking stockholding limits under the Essential Commodities Act.

It has asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (Nafed) to import the commodity “at best rates” to augment supplies in the country. At the same time, to regulate exports a minimum export price of $650 per quintal has been proposed. Onion prices in India are said to be the highest, because of which exporters are holding back.

To eliminate the high profiteering middlemen, Nafed will procure onion at the best prevailing rates from the mandis of Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon in Nasik, Maharashtra to supply to State marketing federations at a nominal service charge.

Nafed has also been asked to procure 4 to 5 lakh tonnes per day directly from farmers in Rajasthan and will undertake wholesale auction of stocks at the Azadpur Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee in Delhi to augment supplies here. The federation will sell onions through its outlets and mobile vans, and though no subsidised rate has been set yet, Nafed will sell at a no profit-no loss basis.

Supply has been hit by inclement weather and delay in transportation from the onion-producing States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Allegations of creation of artificial scarcity by hoarding have also come up.

Following the meeting of the Committee of Secretaries on Wednesday, an inter-ministerial group, including officials from the Ministries of Commerce, Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, met and decided to take immediate steps to enhance the availability of onions.

Speaking to journalists outside Parliament, Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs K.V. Thomas said onions were not being exported because of its high price in the domestic market and lower production this year compared to the last.

There has been an 8.56 lakh tonnes deficit in onion production this year. The next crop will arrive by the beginning of October. Till then the country will have to fall back on the stored stocks, which are estimated at 9 lakh tonnes.

More In: National | News | Business | Markets