State-run trading firm MMTC has placed another onion import order of 4,000 tonnes from Turkey and the shipments are expected to reach by mid-January, the government said on December 4. This is in addition to 17,090 tonnes of onions already contracted, which includes 6,090 tonnes from Egypt and 11,000 tonnes from Turkey, it said in a statement.
MMTC is importing onions on the behalf of the government, which is trying to check prices of the key bulb by improving domestic supplies through various modes, including imports. Onion prices remain high in the range of Rs 75-100/kg across major cities of the country. According to the statement, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also directed MMTC to issue three more tenders for import of onions.
Out of three tenders, two are the country-specific, namely Turkey and the European Union, and one is a global tender. Each of these tenders are for 5,000 tonnes, it said.
To facilitate early imports, the Consumer Affairs Ministry said certain norms have been relaxed in the new tenders issued.
These include the size of onions to be imported have been expanded to 40mm-80mm, consortium bidding has been allowed, exporters can offer shipment in multiple lots.
Additionally, relaxed fumigation conditions that were earlier provided till November 30, have been extended till December 31. This is expected to further increase participation, competition and reduce price, it said.
Besides, a coordination committee has also been formed to ensure that the entire process of import and distribution is streamlined so as to ensure timely arrivals and movement of onions and sale by states, the ministry said.
The committee is holding meetings on a daily basis with participation from officials of MMTC, NAFED, CONCOR and associated ministries.
The Shipping Ministry has assured that it will provide priority landing/docking for the ships containing imported onions and will also be appointing a nodal officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai for ensuring speedy arrivals and onward distribution/dispatch, the statement added.
The Government has also planned procurement of domestically produced onions from major onion producing states to be distributed across all consuming states as per the demand placed by them.
On December 3, the Centre further reduced the stock holding limit for retailers and wholesalers to 5 tonnes and 25 tonnes, respectively. However, these stock limits were exempted on imported onions.
The Cabinet has approved import of 1.2 lakh tonnes of onions to improve the domestic supply and control prices. The government has already banned exports and imposed stock holding limits to check price rise.
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 tonne.