India creating 50,000 tonnes of onion buffer to curb price rise

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The Centre has started creating a buffer stock of 50,000 tonne of onion to check prices in the coming months in view of drought conditions in producing states, a senior food ministry official said.

Wholesale prices at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra, Asia’s largest wholesale market for onion, have shot up by over 29 per cent to Rs 11 per kg Tuesday when compared to Rs 8.50 per kg on the same day a year ago, as per official data.

In the national capital, retail onion prices are ruling at Rs 20-25 per kg depending on the varieties, as per the trade data.

“Due to drought conditions in producing region, the production of rabi onion is expected to be lower. The likely shortfall in production may put pressure on both availability and prices during the lean season,” the official told Press Trust of India (PTI).

Cooperative Nafed, which has been asked to undertake the procurement under the Price Stabilisation Fund, has so far purchased about 32,000 tonne of rabi (winter) onion, the only variety that can be stored and used later during the lean period after July.

Besides onion, the official said the government is creating buffer stock of 16.15 lakh tonne of pulses this year.

Key onion growing states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are reeling under drought conditions this year.

As per the first estimate, onion production in the current 2018-19 crop year ending June is estimated to be slightly higher at 23.62 million tonne as against 23.26 million tonne in 2017-18. The government is expected to revise the estimate later factoring drought impact on production. Harvesting of rabi crop, which accounts for 60 per cent of India’s onion production, is almost complete. India has three seasons for onion – kharif (summer), late kharif and rabi (winter).

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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