With onion prices hitting the roof over the past few days, Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan, on Tuesday assured that the Centre has kept a buffer stock of 50,000 tonnes. He also attributed the hike in onion prices to crop failure in various states owing to floods. "You have seen the situation due to floods in several parts of the country like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, etc. The transportation is disturbed, that is also one of the reasons. We have kept 50,000 tonnes onion in buffer stock," Paswan said.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also assured that the Centre was boosted onion supply through agencies like Nafed. As a result, the prices are expected to calm down in the next few days. "Onion situation will improve in the next few days. Cooperative Nafed is releasing stock from the central buffer at a lower price. We have enough stock of onions," Tomar told reporters.
The government is aware of the onion situation and taking measures to balance in the interest of both farmers and consumers, he said. The Centre has a buffer stock of 50,000 tonnes of onion, of which 16,000 tonnes has been offloaded so far. In Delhi, 200 tonnes a day is being offloaded.
Onion prices have skyrocketed to as high as Rs 70-80 per kg over the past month in some parts of the country due to supply disruption from flood-hit onion-growing states like Maharashtra. Last week's rainfall has further affected the supply, due to which onion prices have surged up to Rs 70-80 per kg in the national capital and other parts of the country, as per trade sources.
"At times, consumers have to pay high price for farm items; and at times, farmers get less price for their produce. Our role is to balance this. We are aware of it and are taking several measures," Tomar added.
Right now, stored onions are sold in most parts of the country, as fresh Kharif (summer) crop will hit the market from November onwards, traders said. Traders further said that there is enough supply of stored onion of the previous year's crop in the country, but its transportation has been affected because of heavy rains.
The Centre has taken several measures to arrest the prices of onion in Delhi and other parts of the country. It is offloading onion from its buffer stock through agencies like Nafed and National Cooperative Consumers' Federation of India (NCCF), which are selling at around Rs 22/kg and state-run Mother Dairy at Rs 23.90 per kg in the national capital.
The state governments have been asked to boost supply in their states lifting central buffer stock. Some states like Delhi, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh have shown interest so far.
Besides, the Centre has discouraged export of onion by increasing the minimum export price and withdrawing incentives. It is also cracking down on black marketers. Besides rains, prices are under pressure on likely fall in Kharif production of this year owing to the less planted area under onion on account of excess rains, the sources added.
(With PTI inputs)