The government has relaxed import norms for onions until Dec 15 and used the buffer stock to increase supplies and moderate prices that have risen rapidly in recent days.
It has also asked Indian diplomats in onion-producing countries to contact traders for supply to India, the government said on Wednesday.
It has relaxed the conditions for fumigation and some declarations under the Plant Quarantine Order, 2003, until the middle of December, it said.
“Such consignments of imported onions which arrive in Indian port without fumigation and endorsement to that effect on the PSC, would be fumigated in India by the importer through an accredited treatment provider. If Stem and Bulbs nematode (Ditylenchus Dipsaci) or onion maggot (Hylimia antiqua) is detected it would be eliminated through fumigation and the consignments to be released with no additional inspection fee,” the affairs ministry said in a statement.
It said onion prices had been rising since the end of August but remained below last year’s level until Oct 18. “A sharp spike in prices of onion in past 10 days by Rs.11.56 per kilo has taken the all-India retail price of onion to Rs.51.95 per kilo which was 12.13% higher than the last year’s price of Rs.46.33 per kg.”
Last year, the government had approved import of 49,500 tonnes of onions when the retail prices had hit Rs 200 a kg in October month.
“A sharp spike in prices of onion in past 10 days by Rs.11.56 per kilo has taken the all-India retail price of onion to Rs.51.95 per kilo which was 12.13% higher than the last year’s price of Rs.46.33 per kg,” the official said.
The government expects the prices to cool down when the new harvest of onion hits the market in November.
“An estimated Kharif Crop of 3.7 million tonnes is also likely to start arriving in the mandis that will give reprieve to the rising prices,” the official said.
In September, the government had taken a pre-emptive measure by announcing a ban on onion export to ensure availability to domestic consumers at reasonable rates during the lean season before the Kharif onion arrival.
The government has built up one lakh tonnes of onion buffer stock from the Rabi onion – 2020.
“In order to moderate prices, onion from the buffer stock is being released in calibrated manner from second half of September, 2020 to major mandis, to retail supplier such as Safal, Kendriya Bhandar & NCCF and also to state governments. More will be done in the coming days,” it said.