Public sector trading firm MMTC, which has been tasked to import onion on behalf of the Centre to cool prices, has contracted to import 6,090 tonnes from Egypt, and the edible bulb will be supplied to states in a price range of Rs 52-60 per kg. Last week, the Union Cabinet decided to import 1.2 lakh tonnes of onions to improve the domestic supply and control prices, which touched Rs 100 per kg earlier this month. Retail prices are ruling at around Rs 70 per kg in the national capital.
"MMTC has placed order for the first consignment of 6,090 tonnes of onions from Egypt which will be arriving at Nhava Sheva (JNPT), Mumbai. The Onions are being offered to state governments for distribution at the rate of Rs 52-55 per kilogram ex-Mumbai and will also be made available at the rate of Rs 60 per kilogram ex-Delhi," an official statement said.
States could directly take the imported stock from the location and also have the option of getting transportation facilitated through NAFED, if required.
"The supply of imported onions will begin from early December onwards," the statement said.
Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava on Monday held video conference with state governments to analyse their demand. He has also written a letter to chief secretaries of all states on November 23 in this regard.
While the Delhi government is yet to place any demand for onions, NAFED has informed that it will retail onions through its own outlets and those of Mother Dairy, Kendriya Bhandar and NCCF.
"The total demand received so far from various state governments for the 1st week is 2,265 tonnes which includes demand from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala and Sikkim and also includes the demand of NAFED for supplies in Delhi," the statement said.
Other states have been requested to indicate their demand at the earliest.
On November 19, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said production in kharif and late-kharif seasons of 2019-20 is estimated to fall 26 per cent to 5.2 million tonne, putting pressure on supply and prices.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Paswan said 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 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. Further, untimely prolonged rains in the major growing states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh during the harvesting period caused damage to the standing crops in these regions," Paswan had said.
As a result, the minister said the production of kharif crop was affected.
The rains during the September-October period also hit transportation of crop from these producing regions to consuming centres, he had said.
"This led to limited availability of kharif onions in the market and has put pressure on its prices," Paswan had said.
The minister said the government has banned onion exports and imposed stock limits to boost domestic supply and check prices.