Centre allows export of 2,000 tonnes of onions

Gujarat is the predominant producer and exporter of white onions in the country, with Bhavnagar and Amreli — which go to the polls on May 7 — accounting for a large part of the produce; shipments must go through three specified ports in Gujarat and Mumbai

April 25, 2024 10:32 pm | Updated April 26, 2024 01:33 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Farmers arrive with fresh stock of white onion at a market in Mahuva, Gujarat. File

Farmers arrive with fresh stock of white onion at a market in Mahuva, Gujarat. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

In a surprise move, the Union government on Thursday partially relaxed the indefinite ban on onion exports again, paving the way for the “immediate” export of 2,000 tonnes of white onions, primarily grown in Gujarat, from three designated ports.

A notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said that exports of white onions would be permitted only after Gujarat’s Horticulture Commissioner certifies the item and quantity being exported.

While previous relaxations to the ban specified the countries where shipments could go and mandated that such exports be channelled through the National Cooperative Exports Limited (NCEL), the latest notification sets no such conditions. It only stipulates that the exports must be routed through the Gujarati ports of Mundra and Pipavav, or Nhava Sheva in Mumbai.

Gujarat crop

Incidentally, horticulture exporters are learnt to have written to the Commerce Ministry and the DGFT on April 13 to ascertain if any relaxation is in the offing for white onion exports, citing reports of ongoing procurement of export quality white onions at one of Gujarat’s Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs).

Gujarat is the predominant producer and exporter of white onions in the country, with districts like Bhavnagar and Amreli — which go to the polls on May 7 — accounting for a large part of the produce.

The latest relaxation has triggered some disquiet among onion farmers from neighbouring States like Maharashtra who grow red onions. “Don’t farmers outside Gujarat also deserve export opportunities now that [domestic] wholesale prices for red onions have cooled,” asked a farmers’ representative from Nashik.

‘A step forward’

Ajit Shah, president of the Horticulture Produce Exporters’ Association or HPEA, said that permitting white onions’ exports without specifying the destination country or agency through which they will be channelled, is a step forward. “The same relaxations must be offered for red onions, as well as smaller size onions [40 mm or less] that are generally not consumed in local markets,” he told The Hindu.

While red onion prices in wholesale markets have dropped to about ₹11 to ₹12 per kg, white onion prices are around ₹16 to ₹17, he said. “It’s now nearly six months since onion exports were banned and we have enough stocks, while prices are lower. So, as and when the government does permit additional exports, it must open them to all traders and farmers,” Mr. Shah mooted.

Diplomatic exceptions

Fearing a shortage of the politically sensitive crop, the Union government had banned onion exports in December 2023. Last month, the curbs were extended ‘till further orders’. However, it had kept the window open for exports to countries making requests through diplomatic channels.

On March 1, 14,400 metric tonnes (MT) of onion exports were permitted for the United Arab Emirates, with a quarterly cap of 3,600 MT. Through two more notifications this month, an additional 20,000 MT of onions have been approved for the UAE “over and above” the quarterly quota, and 10,000 MT have been permitted for Sri Lanka.

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