The Centre has asked state governments to crackdown on traders hoarding onions, create buffer stocks and distribute imported edible bulb at a reasonable rate in order to provide relief to common man from soaring prices. Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries to review the issue of rising onion prices across the country, an official statement said.
Onions are selling at a high price of Rs 75-100 per kg in major cities.
In a video conference with the Chief Secretaries of 11 major onion producing states, Gauba was briefed about the various steps being taken by them to control onion prices.
Chief Secretaries of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana participated in the video conference.
"The Cabinet Secretary directed the states that the overall availability of onions has to be beefed up, considering the temporary shortage, to stabilise the prices," the statement said.
The Centre has already banned onion exports and decided to import 1.2 lakh tonnes of onions, besides imposing stock holding limit on traders.
"The states were further directed to maintain considerable buffer stocks, impose stock limits on traders and to ensure strict action against hoarding," the statement said.
Gauba said the central government has approved the import of 11,000 tonnes of onions to tide over the situation. The deliveries are expected from the last week of December.
This is in addition to import of 6,090 tonnes of onions from Egypt whose deliveries are expected from second week of December.
"Cabinet Secretary directed the states to utilise their Food and Civil Supply Departments to procure and distribute onions at reasonable prices," the statement said.
Secretaries of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Food & Public Distribution also attended the meeting.
On Sunday, sources had said that state-owned trading firm MMTC, which is importing onion on behalf of the Centre, has placed an order of 11,000 tonnes of edible bulb from Turkey.
According to Consumer Affairs Ministry's data, onion's average selling price on Monday is Rs 80 per kg, while the maximum rate is Rs 140 per kg in Port Blair.
Onion is being sold at Rs 76 per kg in the national capital, Rs 87 in Mumbai, Rs 90 per kg in Kolkata and Rs 80 per kg in Chennai.
The lowest price of Rs 40 per kg was reported from Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh, the data showed.
The ministry monitors prices of 22 essential commodities based on the data collected from 109 market centres spread across the country.
On November 19, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said onion production in kharif and late-kharif seasons of 2019-20 is estimated to fall 26 per cent to 5.2 million tonnes.
Onion is a seasonal crop with harvesting period of rabi (March to June), kharif (October to December) and late-kharif (January-March). During July to October, the supply in the market comes from stored onions from rabi (winter-sown) season.
During 2019-20, there was a 3-4 weeks delay in sowing as well as decline in sown area of the kharif onion because of late arrival of monsoon, Paswan had said.
Further, untimely prolonged rains in major growing states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh during the harvesting period caused damage to the standing crops in these regions.
"It's not in our hand, the government is making maximum efforts but who can win from nature," he recently told reporters when asked by when onion prices will come down to reasonable level.