NEW DELHI: The government on Friday invoked the stock limit norms under the Essential Commodities Act for onions as prices continued to increase across almost all cities. The new norms kicked in just 31 days after the Parliament had passed the amendments to the EC Act, which had the provision to invoke this clause in extra-ordinary price rise situations.
The consumer affairs secretary Leena Nandan told reporters that while retailers can store a maximum of 2 tonnes (20 quintal) of onion, the wholesalers can keep up to 25 tonnes (250 quintals) at a particular time. This restriction will be effective till December 31 to ensure the traders were not creating artificial conditions to jack up prices.
The onion prices increased across cities with the key kitchen bulb selling at a maximum of Rs 105 kg in Bengaluru and in Mumbai it was Rs 97 a kg. TOI on Friday had reported how the onion prices have doubled across 28 cities in the past one month and Bengaluru had witnessed four-fold rise.
The all India average retail price variation of onions as of October 21 when compared to last year was 22.12% (from Rs 45.33 to Rs 55.6 per kg) and when compared to last five years the average is 114.96% (from Rs 25.87 to 55.6 per kg).
Food secretary Sudhanshu Pandey, who heads the inter-ministerial panel on essential commodities, said the states have intimated that the current harvest of onion is likely to be around 36 lakh tonnes as against the earlier estimate of 43 lakh tonnes.
Justifying the reason for imposing stock limits, the consumer affairs secretary said the production of onion in 2019-20 was 261 lakh tonnes, which was the highest in the past five years. She said the government had taken note of sudden artificial price rise in September and October to take necessary measures including the ban on export of onions.
The consumer affairs secretary also said, “We have stepped up efforts to check the price rise. We have requested state governments and union territories to take onion from our buffer stock for retail intervention,” she said. The secretary said it was for the first time the Centre had created a buffer stock of one lakh tonnes on onion and it has been releasing the stock in a calibrated manner. Currently, the stock is around 30,000 tonnes and can meet the demand from states till the first week of November.
Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, managing director of government owned cooperative, Nafed, said, “We are offering the onions to states at Rs 25 a kg and the transportation cost even as the current wholesale price at Lasalgaon is more than Rs 55 a kg.
Apart from facilitating the import by the private traders, the government has also decided that government-owned MMTC would start importing red onions to meet the demand-supply gap.