Onion prices have started falling, and the government will also ensure adequate and steady supply of potatoes and pulses at affordable rates in the festive season with the help of buffer stocks and easier imports, Consumer Affairs and Food Minister Piyush Goyal said.
"We have relaxed import norms for onions, reduced duty for potatoes and extended time limit for importing pulses to ensure availability. Due to unseasonal rains, there is some shortage which will be plugged by imports. We will be offloading 2 lakh tonnes of tur in open market from buffer stock by Diwali to cool down the prices," Goyal told reporters in his first media interaction as consumer affairs and food minister.
He said the government had released 37,000 tonnes of onion in the market to cool down rising onion prices.
"After we eased quarantine and fumigation norms for onion imports, around 7,000 tonnes of onions have already been imported by private players. Another 25,000 tonnes will reach by Diwali to moderate prices and ensure easy availability. Apart from that, Nafed is also working on proposal to import onions through private players," he said.
Goyal said onion prices had fallen in recent days because of stock limits that were imposed and the ban on exports. "The all India average of onion prices for last three days have been Rs 65 a kg. Our steps have shown results," he said. Retail onion prices had shot to Rs 100 a kg in some parts of the country. The government has taken several steps in last one month including banning onion and onion seeds export and imposing stock limit of 25 tonnes for wholesalers and 2 tonnes for retailers.
Goyal said the government is also importing 30,000 tonnes of potatoes from Bhutan to cool down the prices which have risen to Rs 55-60 a kg in some parts of the country. "We have also opened a quota for importing 10 lakh tonnes of potatoes at 10% duty valid till January 2021. The import duty on potatoes otherwise is 30%," he said.
The minister said that the government has entered into a five-year agreements with Mozambique and Myanmar for import of Tur and Urad respectively.
"We have extended the time limit for importing 4 lakh tonnes of Tur till December this year besides expediting import of 2 lakh tonnes of Urad. We have also decided to continue duty on Masur to be 10% till the end of this year for cheap imports," he said.
He said that the government aims to make India self-sufficient in pulses and oilseeds. "Our production has increased substantially in last five years. Till the time we become self-sufficient, we will ensure import arrangements for providing affordable pulses and edible oil to consumers," he said.