New Delhi: Retail prices of onion, which are hovering between Rs 60 and Rs 100 per kg across India, will not cool off even after the first batch of imported onions arrives after two weeks.
The onions imported by state-owned Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) will arrive in India on 10 December, government officials told ThePrint.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs had written to MMTC on 9 November, directing it to import 1 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of onions to tackle the steep rise in the prices of the kitchen staple.
But even after the imported onions reach India, prices will only see a marginal dip.
“The imported onions will be sold across the country at around Rs 50-60 per kg. The onions will be offered to state governments for distribution at the rate of Rs 52-55/kg if they pick it up from Mumbai and at Rs 60/kg if they pick up from Delhi,” a senior official in the consumer affairs ministry, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint.
First consignment to arrive from Egypt
The MMTC had floated two tenders for the import of onions.
The first tender was, however, scrapped due to inadequate bids. “The second tender got four bids, out of which a bid from Egypt has been selected, which will provide 6,090 MT of onions in three phases,” a second ministry official said.
The first consignment of onions from Egypt, containing around 1,100 MT, will arrive in Mumbai on 10 December. The next consignments with the remaining quantity of onions is scheduled to arrive on 24 December and 31 December.
“There were stringent norms for size, quality and smell due to which the initial tenders did not received enough bids,” said the official, adding the next tender will be floated on 29 November.
Govt not to import over 10,000 MT onions per month
At a meeting of Price Stabilisation Fund Management Committee last week, which was attended by officials from the ministries of home affairs, consumer affairs and agriculture, it was decided that a monthly cap will be put on the quantity of onions to be imported.
“The import in the country will be restricted at 10,000 MT per month. The ceiling on import is being done so that international and domestic prices are not disrupted,” the second official said.
It was also decided at the meeting that onions will be purchased on a country-to-country basis — as an agreement between the two governments — instead of the Government of India procuring it from private players.
The home ministry has also asked for further relaxation of import norms, including fumigation norms or accommodate any country’s specific demands, to encourage more bids, the official added.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs had also written to the Ministry of External Affairs last month to push envoys in Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Afghanistan to facilitate the import of onions. As of now, preliminary proposals have been received from Afghanistan, Egypt and Iran.