New Delhi: The export ban on onions has lead to tension in Maharashtra with farmers on protest and markets shutting down. The decision on the ban has the government split down the middle. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet state officials on Saturday to review the situation.
Under pressure, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan appealed to Food Minister KV Thomas to lift the ban that was imposed three days ago.
Chavan said,"We have a sufficient stock of onions. I hope the government reverses it's decision and lifts the ban."
The Maharashtra Chief Minister has a strong ally in the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who also believes that there should be no ban on onion exports. The Agriculture Minister met the Food Minister, he also spoke with Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit over phone with regard to the ban. He is expected to talk to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee about the same.
KV Thomas, however, doesn't see much sense in lifting the ban immediately. He wants to find out a way to get onion out of surplus Nashik into markets like Delhi and Kerala where prices are over Rs 25 per kilo.
"Some quantity has been held. It has not come to the market. If they can ensure that it comes to the market, and prices stabilise we have no objections in lifting the ban," Thomas said.
The ban came after a delayed Kharif crop led to rising prices. The Food Minister directed the NAFED and the NCCF to sell onions at reasonable rates. The minimum export price of onions was also raised from Rs 300 to Rs 475, but even this did not help. Finally the decision to ban onion exports was taken.
Last year, retail prices of onions had shot up to almost Rs 80 per kilo and nothing the government did could help lower the prices. It is to avoid such a situation the government took a decision to ban the export of onions, which has not gone down well with framers in Maharashtra.
With inflation close to double digits and a hike in petrol prices, high onion prices could be politically suicidal for the already beleaguered government.