Onion prices jumped to a record Rs 4,500 a quintal on Thursday at Lasalgaon, the country's largest wholesale market. Average wholesale price reached Rs 3,500 per quintal, according to a report in The Times of India. The price of onions was recorded at Rs 756 per quintal on the same day in 2018, the report said.
The highest average wholesale price of onion recorded was at Rs 3,400 per quintal on 12 December 2017. The previous record price for onions was Rs 4,300 per quintal on September 2015. However, the all-time high price recorded was Rs 5,700 per quintal on 22 August, 2015. The price has been almost tripled since 31 July this year, when the rate was recorded at Rs 1,250 per quintal at Lasalgaon.
According to an Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) official, the rise in demand as compared to supply has led to an increase in the prices. “There has been a shortage of the commodity in the onion growing states of the country, leading to a sharp rise in demand for onions from Maharashtra,” the official told the publication.
The hike in prices came after the government imposed a minimum onion export price of $850 per tonne on 13 September to curb its shipments and help bring down spiralling domestic prices.
The Minimum Export Price (MEP) is the rate below which no exports are allowed.
"Export of all varieties of onions...will be allowed only on letter of credit subject to a minimum export price of $850 FOB (freight on board) per metric ton till further orders," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said in a notification.
The Centre last month warned of strict action against hoarding of onion amid supply disruption fears due to floods in parts of major growing states - Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Parts of major onion producing states, including Maharashtra and Karnataka, are reeling under floods, raising fears of supply disruption.
On Tuesday, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan termed high onion prices as a “temporary phase”, and asserted that they have enough supplies in buffer stock to check prices of the staple food that trade data showed is ruling in the range of Rs 50-60 per kg in some parts of the country, PTI said.
“It is a temporary phase. Every year we face this problem (price rise) in three main perishable commodities potato, onion and tomato. This year, it is onion. However, we have enough supply in our buffer,” Paswan told reporters.
There was supply disruption because of floods in main-growing states like Maharasthra and Karnataka. Otherwise, the country has enough onion production and the Centre has also created a buffer stock of 56,000 tonne to address any shortages, he said.
To keep a lid on onion prices, Paswan said, cooperative Nafed and NCCF as well as Mother Dairy are selling onion in the price sensitive Delhi market at Rs 23.90 per kg. They are taking onions from the central buffer stock.
"Delhi, as well as other state governments have been asked to lift the stock from the buffer and boost supply in their states via civil supplies department and ration shops," he added.
State-run MMTC has been asked to import 2,000 tonne of onions to improve the domestic supply.
The Minister said to contain price rise, the government has taken several measures, including withdrawal of export incentives and increasing minimum export price. The government is also taking action against hoarders and black marketeers.
Retail inflation inched up marginally to 3.21 percent in August from 3.15 percent in July, mainly due to costlier food items.
The country exports on an average 15 lakh tonnes of onions a year.
India produces around 17-18 million tonnes of onion per year.
--With PTI inputs
Updated Date: Sep 20, 2019 09:35:22 IST