The Centre is "worried" about disposing of imported onions as not many states are interested to take it despite the key kitchen stable is being offered to them at an average landed cost of ₹ 55 per kg and bearing the transportation cost, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Tuesday.
Retail onion prices, which were ruling over ₹100 per kg in most cities since the past two months, have started softening now on arrival of imported onions and new Kharif crop. However, prices have still not fallen to the normal levels.
"So far, we have contracted 36,000 tonnes of onion. Of which, 18,500 tonnes of shipment has reached India, and states have been able to take only 2,000 tonnes after much persuasion. We are worried about its disposal because it is a perishable commodity," Paswan told reporters.
"Tomorrow, someone should not go to court and say imported onions were rotting," he said.
The minister further said the Centre is offering imported onions at an average landed cost of ₹55 per kg and also bearing the entire transportation cost. Despite all, the state governments are not coming forward to buy and retail it.
Asked why prices are still high despite imports, Paswan said, "The imports are being done to improve the domestic supply and check prices. If state governments are not ready to take the imported onions, what can we do?" So far, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal governments have taken the imported onions. Many states have withdrawn their demand, he added.
Sources said the taste of imported onions is different from the homegrown ones and consumers are not buying it in the retail markets when the domestic onion is available at the same rate.
Stating that a shipment of 5,500 tonnes was cancelled before it set on sail in the absence of demand, Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash Srivastava said 4,000 tonnes of imported onions is expected to arrive in the next two days and 14,500 tonnes by the month-end.
The government is importing onions through state-run trading agency MMTC. Imports are being undertaken from Turkey, Afghanistan and Egypt. Onion prices shot up due to 25 per cent fall in the Kharif production.
Paswan also said the ministry is keeping a close watch on prices of other commodities, especially edible oils and pulses. The government will take action at an appropriate time.