Even as it faces the heat of skyrocketing prices of onion which is ruling between Rs 70-80 a kg, the government on Tuesday said any respite to the commoner from the high rates may take 2-3 weeks.

The centre, however, ruled out any immediate plans to import onions to arrest prices even though small consignments arrived from Pakistan.

With wholesale rates at the biggest producing centre, Nashik in Maharashtra crossing over Rs 70, there are fears that the retail selling price in Delhi and elsewhere may edge towards Rs 100 a kg.

“Onion prices will remain high for the next 2-3 weeks and the situation is likely to improve only after two-three weeks,” Mr. Pawar told reporters here.

The prices of onions have soared to Rs 60-70 per kg in retail markets in Delhi and many other important cities of the country from Rs 35-40 just a few days ago.

“Because of heavy rains in Nashik area substantial quantity of onion has been damaged.

Our expectation is that with the arrival from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in the next 2-3 weeks, prices will come down,” Mr. Pawar said when asked about the reasons for sharp rise in prices.

Onion prices in various Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in Nashik, the main trading centre for the bulb, have soared to a high of Rs 7,100 per quintal.

This was due to shortfall in production following untimely rains in the growing areas of Maharashtra in November.

On Monday, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma as well as Nafed Managing Director Sanjeev Chopra had attributed the sudden rise in onion prices to hoarding and speculations.

Asked whether government will import onion to boost domestic supply, Mr. Pawar said: “as of today there is no proposal to import“.

Meanwhile, some traders in north India have started importing onions from neighbouring country Pakistan.

As many as 13 truck loads (5 to 15 tonne per truck) of onion have arrived from Pakistan, a senior official of Customs department in Amritsar had said yesterday.

The landed cost of onion from Pakistan stood at Rs 18-20 per kg.

Mr. Pawar highlighted the steps taken by the government to control prices such as suspension of exports till January 15 and more than doubling minimum export price of onion to USD 1,200 per tonne from USD 525 per tonne.

“Ban on onion exports should help reduce the prices,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nafed -- the regulating agency of onion exports -- and National Consumer Co-operative Federation (NCCF) have started selling onion at Rs 35-40 a kg in the national capital to provide some relief to the common man.

Nafed and NCCF have 25 retail outlets in Delhi.

“We hope the voluntary suspension of exports, raising of minimum export price and retail sales by Nafed and NCCF will definitely have a correction on prices,” Mr. Chopra said.

Onion production stood at around 12 million tonnes in 2009-10 fiscal, out of which 1.9 million tonnes were exported.

In 2010-11, production in Kharif season is estimated at five million tonnes.