Amid onion crisis across the nation, the government may resort to distress sale of about 34,000 tonne of onions which were imported from countries like Egypt and Turkey to help reduce the skyrocketing onion prices
because they are not pungent enough for the Indian tongue, according to a report by Hindustan Times.
With no takers for the onions, the government is considering selling a huge pile of imported onions at ₹25 per kg, which is less than half the cost, including transportation, Hindustan Times quoted two sources as saying.
According to HT, the government’s original plan was to sell imported onions at approx. ₹55 per kg on a no-profit-no-loss basis.
One of the two anonymous sources explained that onion is a perishable commodity, and particularly the imported onions are susceptible to moisture if kept outside a controlled environment. The government is, therefore, exploring several options, including selling at a discount in the domestic market and exporting to neighbours such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives.
Some states want huge discounts given the flavour (or lack of) of the onions; they are also larger than Indian onions, which buyers find disconcerting; and on the export front, Bangladesh wants discounts for purchasing these onions, the second person told HT.
Most of the imports are from Turkey. Turkish onions are larger in size, nearly four times the size of onions from Nashik, but significantly less pungent, he added.
The government has so far been able to sell only 2,000 tonne of imported onions to agencies such as the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (Nafed) and to Andhra Pradesh (900 tonne), Uttar Pradesh (220 tonne), Telangana (120 tonne), West Bengal (125 tonne), Uttarakhand (265 tonne), stated HT report.
“The stock of imported onions is piling up. We already have a stock of 22,000 tonnes as on January 16. Another 8,000-9,000 tonnes are expected to be added by January 25, which will be followed by 5,000-6,000 tonne by the end of this month,” the first source told HT.
Hindustan Times quoted consumer affairs secretary Avinash Srivastava as saying that various states submitted a requirement of 33,000 tonnes of onions. However, some states, including Assam, Maharashtra, Haryana and Karnataka, later withdrew their demand.
The Centre’s decision to import onions was based on requests from states to meet the acute shortfall of onions that drove the price of the commodity to up to ₹150 per kg in various retail markets.
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are the lead cultivators in the country, which were affected by the severe flooding this summer, resulting in a supply shock.
Although other vegetable prices dropped down from about ₹100-115 last month following imports and fresh harvests, vegetable prices are still high at ₹78 per kg in Delhi and ₹80 per kg in Mumbai.