A worker sews up a sack full of onions
A worker sews up a sack full of onions (representational image) | Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: At a time when the Modi government is importing 1 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of onion to ease domestic supplies and keep prices at check, NAFED , the co-operative wing of the government, has wasted over half of its onion buffer stock due to poor storage.

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) had stored its buffer stock of onion using traditional methods, as opposed to cold storage, leading to the wastage.

Under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF), NAFED had managed a buffer stock of 57,372 MT of onion and stored it in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Of the total stock, NAFED has been able to disburse only 26,700 MT among the states and other agencies since August after prices in the retail market crossed Rs 40/kg. The rest were either disposed of in the local market due to being of sub-standard quality or were destroyed because of decay caused by moisture and rain.

“Almost 53 per cent of the onions procured by NAFED to ease shortage and the inflation crisis in the country was of no use to us,” a consumer ministry official familiar with the matter told ThePrint.

“NAFED was to create a buffer stock of around 60,000 MT for this year but they were only able to create a stock of 57,372 MT. Of this, 48,183 MT and 9,189 MT were from Maharashtra and Gujarat respectively,” said the official, who did not wish to be named.


Also read: Why Modi govt’s decision to ease fumigation norms for onion import has experts worried


NAFED blames weather

The government nominee in NAFED, Ashok Thakur, however, blamed the weather for the leakage.

“We preserve onions under normal circumstances only for one to two months,” he told ThePrint. “Even then, there is a 10 per cent spoilage of onion stored in one month, which increased to 25 per cent in 2-3 months. Due to rainfall we had to preserve the onions until November as against the usual September-October.”

“None of the onions were kept in cold storage this time. We managed only through traditional methods in farm storages but there was increased water flow and stagnation due to excessive rainfall in Maharashtra this year,” he added.

Soaring onion prices have the Modi government worried. A 30-40 per cent dip in production this year has led to fears that the retail price of onions, a key kitchen staple in India, is likely to touch Rs 100 per kg across the country by the end of November.

To ease the crisis, the government has approved the import of 1 lakh metric tonnes of onion.

The government has also mandated its agencies such as the IB, RAW, ED and the I-T department to work in tandem with the agriculture and consumer affairs ministries to ensure that onion prices are kept under check.

Selling the onion at loss

NAFED’s troubles, however, weren’t limited to storage.

The agency procured the onions from Maharashtra and Gujarat at an average rate of Rs 12.5/g and then sold it to the states for a mere Rs 15.5/kg. The Modi government has directed the states and other agencies to sell these onions at not more than Rs 24/kg.

“There were twin losses in procurement and selling model of NAFED, which has led to a great deal of loss to the exchequer,” a NAFED official, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint.

“While the modal rates in mandis were around Rs 10/kg, NAFED procured the onion at around Rs 12/kg. The transportation cost for onion is around Rs 5-8/kg whereas the onion was sold to states at mere Rs 15/kg,” added the official. He said NAFED has barely 60-80 MT of consumable onion left.


Also read: Apple trade from Kashmir sees a 44% dip in October-end, militant attacks blamed


 

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2 Comments Share Your Views

2 COMMENTS

  1. The reporter does not onion biomechanics and chemistry and why it’s not sored in cold storage. Few Netherland company’s tried to sell potato storage structures in India but was big failure. Few onion cold stories were built by traders affiliated to NCP, as it was on subsidy but has been lying ideal. The likes of DOGR and NHRDF who are suppose to work on these aspects have not yet woken.
    There are few experiments underway but not worth mentioning, it needs scale up.

    Unlike European countries where onions are stored in CA Stores and transported in cold chain, in India it’s at ambient temperature hence once you bring onion from cold storage to ambient temp it starts sprouting in 2-3 days even beforeits consumed..

    NAFED officials are hand in glow with mahaFPC and traders who stored huge quantities in unscientific onion chawls. Unless a separate arrangement is created these problems are going to persist.

  2. The penomenon of waste of agricuture produce in the greatest sin. Mr.Pawar who was the agricuture minister for a long time,did nothing to address the issue,he is alwyas busy with saving his chair. it is again proved how much he cares in this maharastra gov formation logjam. He should be actually chargesheeted for non performance during his tenure specially in wasting the agriculture product. He must take the blame if is is gentleman,He must come out with his clarrificaition if any publically and apologise the farmers of India.

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