New Delhi: As retail onion prices shot up to Rs 80/kg, the Centre on Tuesday said it will relax fumigation norms and facilitate import of the key kitchen staple from Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey and Iran to boost the domestic supply.
A decision in this regard was taken at the meeting of an inter-ministerial committee, headed by Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava, which reviewed the prices and availability of onions in the country.
Onion prices have remained high in most retail markets of Delhi and other consuming states for last more than a month because of supply disruption following heavy rains in main growing states like Maharasthra.
As per the data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, retail price of onion in Delhi was quoting at Rs 80/kg on Tuesday, while at Rs 70/kg in Chennai and Kolkata and at Rs 50/kg in Chennai.
"It (supply) is expected to improve in the coming days. ...Union government to act as a facilitator for import of onion. Phytosanitary and fumigation requirement to be suitably liberalised to facilitate imports," said a statement issued by the Consumer Affairs Ministry.
Indian missions in Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey and Iran will be requested to facilitate the supply of onions to India. This is expected to facilitate immediate import of 80 containers and diversion of 100 containers in high seas to India, the ministry said.
Elaborating, a senior Consumer Affairs Ministry official said that the Indian missions in these countries will discuss with private traders and see if imports can be facilitated.
Currently, imported onions are allowed in the country after the commodity is fumigated with Methyl Bromide and certified by the exporting nation. Importers are required to pay huge charges if fumigated at Indian ports. This provision will be liberalised, he said.
To further improve the availability in the national capital, agri-cooperative NAFED has been directed to supply the maximum possible quantities of onion to the Delhi government as well as state-run Mother Dairy.
Nafed officials have been asked to visit the onion growing region of Nashik in Maharasthra to take stock of the situation there and facilitate movement of supplies to consuming regions including Delhi and adjoining areas, the ministry said.
That apart, two inter-ministerial teams will be dispatched on November 6-7 to Karnataka and Rajasthan to take stock of onion supplies and encourage the supplies to consuming regions including Delhi-NCR, it added.
The Delhi government has also been advised to accompany the inter-ministerial team of officials visiting Karnataka and Rajasthan.
"They were also advised to hold meeting with traders and encourage them to pick up available supplies in the region. They may also discourage traders from profiteering and speculative pricing," the statement said.
The Rajasthan government has already assured quick movement of onion stock. The harvesting in the state has already commenced in some areas, it added.
Onion prices have failed cool down despite government measures including sale of central buffer stock at a cheaper rate of Rs 24.90/kg in Delhi-NCR through 400-odd Safal outlets of state-run Mother Dairy. The buffer onion is also being supplied to other states as well.