All-India average retail price of onions has dropped by 60 per cent this year to Rs 40 per kg on timely government interventions to boost the supply, Consumer Affairs Secretary Leena Nandan said on Thursday. Speaking to PTI, Nandan said there has been a sharp drop in onion prices across the country.
"In one month alone, the all-India average retail price of onion has dropped by 33.33 per cent to Rs 40 per kg today from Rs 60 per kg on November 30 this year," she said. Since December 31, 2019, when the nationwide average price was as high as Rs 100 per kg, it has fallen to Rs 40 per kg now, giving much relief to consumers, Nandan said.
In the national capital, the average price is even lower at Rs 30 per kg as on Thursday, as compared to Rs 100 per kg on December 31, 2019, she said. In Mumbai, the average price was Rs 48 per kg on Thursday as against Rs 93 per kg a year ago, while it has fallen from Rs 90 to Rs 40 per kg in Kolkata and from Rs 85 to Rs 42 per kg in the said period, according to data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry.
However, private traders said retail prices of onions vary depending on the quality and locality when compared with the government price data. Nandan said the 60 per cent decline in the nationwide average price has been possible due to timely government interventions taken since September.
Highlighting a series of measures taken to check onion prices, the secretary said the government first completely banned onion export on September 14. After that, stock limit was imposed for three months from October 23 to December 31 on wholesalers and retailers. In the very first instance, the government prescribed quantities that traders are allowed to stock and this had an immediate impact, she said.
Further, the government facilitated the import of onions to improve the local supply and control price rise. "Lot of facilitation was done at Attari-Wagah border (Punjab) and at seaports for quick evacuation of imported onions. Good quantities of imported onions arrived," she said.
According to the secretary, the government took steps to facilitate import from Afghanistan and other countries, as also to directly import onions through cooperative Nafed. "Around Rs 70,000-75,000 tonnes of onions were imported through private trades in 2020. Nafed also imported around 3,000 tonnes of onions," she said.
Nafed imported red onions of a particular dimension. taking into account the last year's experience, and immediately offloaded those in the local market that helped cool down the prices, she said. "All these steps taken together have resulted in a situation where figures speak for themselves," she noted.
Asked about the rise in onion prices at Lasalgaon wholesale market in Maharashtra after the government announced the lifting of the export ban from January 1, the Secretary said, "That is good. If good quantities are coming into the market, then there is no need to artificially constrain the exports. There is logic." The measures to ban export earlier were taken with the purpose to control consumer prices which have an impact on consumer price inflation, she said. Nandan said retail onion prices cooled down with the arrival of fresh kharif crop supply in the markets. She also said that the country's kharif onion production has been as per expectations.
Going forward, the government has decided to enhance the buffer stock of onion from 1 lakh tonnes to 1.5 lakh tonnes for the rabi season of 2021, she added.