State-owned trading firm MMTC, which is importing onion on the behalf of the Centre, has placed an order of 11,000 tonnes of edible bulb from Turkey as part of its efforts to boost domestic supply and ease soaring prices, sources said.
This is the second import order placed by the MMTC. The public sector firm is already importing 6,090 tonnes from Egypt.
Last month, the Union Cabinet approved importing 1.2 lakh tonnes of onion to improve the domestic supply and control prices that have skyrocketed to Rs 75-120 per kg across major cities now. The Centre has already banned exports and imposed stockholding limit on wholesalers and retailers for indefinite period.
According to sources, MMTC has contracted 11,000 tonnes of onion imports from Turkey and the consignments are expected in January next year.
The company had placed an order for the first consignment of 6,090 tonnes of onion from Egypt which will be arriving at Nhava Sheva (JNPT), Mumbai in the second week of this month. The imported onion is being offered to state governments for distribution at the rate of Rs 52-55 per kg ex-Mumbai and Rs 60 per kg ex-Delhi.
To monitor onion prices, a Group of Ministers, chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah, has already been constituted. Finance minister, consumer affairs minister, agriculture minister and road transport minister are also members of this panel. A Committee of Secretaries (CoS) and Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava is also constantly reviewing the situation.
Onion prices remain high across the major cities of the country as the average selling price ruled at Rs 75 per kg on Saturday (November 30) while the maximum rate of Rs 120 per kg was recorded in Mayabunder, according to the data compiled by the Consumer Affairs ministry.
On November 19, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had said onion production in kharif and late-kharif seasons of 2019-20 is estimated to fall 26 per cent to 5.2 million tonne.
Onion is a seasonal crop with harvesting period of (March to June), kharif (October to December) and late-kharif (January-March). During July to October, the supply in the market comes from stored onions from rabi (winter-sown) season.
"During 2019-20, there was a 3-4 weeks delay in sowing as well as decline in sown area of the kharif onion because of late arrival of monsoon. Further, untimely prolonged rains in the major growing states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh during the harvesting period caused damage to the standing crops in these regions," Mr Paswan had said.
"It''s not in our hand, the government is making maximum efforts but who can win from nature," he recently told reporters when asked by when onion prices will come down to reasonable level.
According to the consumer affairs ministry data, onion is being sold at Rs 76 per kg in the national capital, Rs 82 in Mumbai, Rs 90 per kg in Kolkata and Rs 80 per kg in Chennai.
The lowest price of Rs 42 per kg of the bulb was reported from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and Vijaywada, the data showed.
The ministry monitors prices of 22 essential commodities (rice, wheat, atta, gram dal, tur (arhar) dal, urad dal , moong dal, masur dal, sugar, gur, groundnut oil, mustard oil, vanaspati, sunflower oil, soya oil, palm oil, tea, milk, potato, onion, tomato and salt) based on data collected from 109 market centres spread across the country.