New Delhi: India's onion export rose by 56 per cent to 12.29 lakh tonnes in April-July this year, but the country has now gone in for import of the kitchen staple as retail prices have shot up to Rs 65-70 per kg because of tight supplies.
In value terms too, the onion export increased by 47.69 per cent to Rs 1,443.09 crore in the period under review, from Rs 977.84 crore a year ago, it said.
Last week, the government allowed state-owned agencies like MMTC to import onion from countries like Egypt and China to increase availability and cool retail prices that have skyrocketed to Rs 65-70 a kg level in many parts of the country.
According to data maintained by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), the country has exported 12.29 lakh tonnes of onion during April-July of 2017-18, up 56 per cent from 7.88 lakh tonnes in the year-ago period.
"Exports increased during April-July because of two reasons: firstly, there was no minimum export price (MEP) and second, the global prices remained much higher," the state- owned National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation (NHRDF) acting Director P K Gupta told PTI.
The exports helped farmers get better rates for their produce during the first quarter of the fiscal when local prices had fallen sharply. However, with old stocks getting depleted and rise in local prices, the exports have slowed, he said.
According to the DGIS data, exporters realised Rs 11,737 per tonne of onion during April-July of this fiscal. MEP is the minimum rate below which export is not allowed.
Onion MEP was scrapped in December 2015. Despite demand from Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, the MEP was not imposed in August when retail onion prices had started showing an upward trend.
"Now, retail onion prices have come under pressure because the old crop is getting exhausted. Also, new kharif crop arrival is less," Gupta said.
For instance, in the national capital, the average retail price of onion was ruling at Rs 15 per kg in April and gradually rose to Rs 30-35 in July and by October-end, the rate crossed Rs 50, as per the ministry data. However, local vendors are selling at Rs 65-70 per kg depending on the quality and locality in Delhi.
A similar rise in prices of onion was witnessed in other cities also. To boost local supply, the government facilitated import of onion through private traders, who have purchased 11,400 tonnes from the overseas market so far. The new kharif crop is likely to be lower by 10 per cent as area sown is less by 30 per cent.
The production assessment will be known once the harvesting completes, a senior consumer affairs ministry official said. It may be noted that 40 per cent of the country's total onion crop is produced in the kharif season, and the rest during the rabi season.
The kharif crop, however, cannot be stored. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat are major onion-producing states.