Retail onion prices are not “extraordinarily high” to necessitate banning export of the key kitchen staple and buffer stocks are being released to cool down the prices further, Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Friday. State governments are of the opinion that there is no possibility of sharp increase in onion prices in the coming days as domestic kharif onion production is estimated to be higher at 43.88 lakh tonne in the 2021-22 crop year (July-June) as against 37.38 lakh tonne in the year-ago period, he said. Pandey said the average onion price was ruling at Rs 41.5 per kg on October 21, much lower than Rs 55.6 per kg in the year-ago period.
As per the government data, retail prices were ruling at Rs 48/kg in Delhi, Rs 43/kg in Mumbai, Rs 37/kg in Chennai and Rs 57/kg in Kolkata on Friday. Addressing the media, the Food Secretary said: “Onion prices are not extraordinarily high. The average prices are lower than last year.” Market intervention has already been initiated to check prices of onion, but the rates have not reached anywhere close to the level that necessitates further immediate action as per the Essential Commodities Act, he said. Asked about plans to ban onion exports, the Secretary said, “There is no such scenario. Exports are lower than last year. It is better to monitor than speculate.” Already more than 81,000 tonne of onion from the buffer stock has been released in the market where prices are rising at a fast pace, to improve availability and control prices, he said.
Out of the record 2 lakh tonne of onion buffer stock created by the government, about 1 lakh tonne is still available for market intervention. The Centre is also supplying onions to states at subsidised rates to boost the supply, he said. Besides, kharif onion production is expected to be higher by 7-8 lakh tonne this year and this would help further cool down onion prices in the coming days, he added.
The retail price rise is also because of small damage to the onion crop in about 0.59 lakh hectare area in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh due to recent unseasonal rains. “However, we had discussions with state governments last week. Everyone is of the view that there is no possibility of increase in prices,” he added. The Centre is offering buffer onion at Rs 21 per kg ex-storage location, while at Rs 26/kg to Mother Dairy’s Safal outlets in Delhi. So far, 400 tonne have been supplied to Safal.