New Delhi: The Modi government, unable to get states to buy onions it has imported, is now offering it to them for as little as Rs 10/kg.
According to documents accessed by ThePrint, the central government, which was earlier offering the imported onions for Rs 48-54/kg is now looking to sell them to the states for Rs 10-25/kg.
The decision comes as states, despite repeated requests, have procured just 8 per cent of the imported onions. The government fears that the remaining stock, lying at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, will end up decomposing.
The central government’s problems have also been compounded by the fact that Haryana, which had procured 1,100 Metric Tonnes (MT) of the imported onions, has returned the stock on the grounds that it was rotten on arrival.
The Centre now risks running up losses worth Rs 200 crore.
The Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India (MMTC), assigned to import the onions, has so far spent Rs 226 crore for the imports but has sold onions worth only Rs 17-19 crore.
Sources in the consumer affairs ministry said that the losses may increase further as the last few payments for import are yet to be made by MMTC.
“As of 31 January, MMTC has placed a demand of Rs 226 crore for import of onions while only Rs 17-19 crore worth of onions have been sold out,” an official in the consumer affairs ministry told ThePrint.
The MMTC Tuesday tweeted that it will hold e-auctions for the sale of onions and also upload tenders on its website.
MMTC is holding e-auctions for sale of imported onions on NeML & Agribazaar. MMTC will also upload tenders on its website for sale of imported onions. Bidder can participate via-https://t.co/BMJmsGeWi9https://t.co/1QNaLGQTFyhttps://t.co/s7MofCsd7x
— MMTC Limited (@mmtc_ltd) February 4, 2020
‘States reluctant to buy’
The government has imported 36,500 MT onions from November onwards, in a bid to bring down prices of the essential commodity, which had skyrocketed to Rs 100/kg in November and December of last year.
The states have so far procured only 2,609 MT of the 36,500 MT and around 900 MT was auctioned in Mumbai.
The states have been reluctant to buy the produce mainly due to a delay in the arrival of imported onions, and the ready availability of cheaper local varieties.
A source familiar with the matter told ThePrint that the states are also not keen on buying the onions due to different taste, sprouting and putrefying of the imported onions.
The government had also offered the onions to Bangladesh and Maldives. While Maldives did not respond, Bangladesh wanted indigenous produce, as opposed to the imported one, which the government refused as the export ban on onions is still in place.
In a last-ditch effort to avert the loss, the consumer ministry might write to the chief secretaries of state and food processing industry to procure the perishing onions.
The ministry may also look at calling home ministers of BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh and Assam to procure the onions.