India releases buffer stocks of onion to states to control prices

To prevent sharp jumps in retail onion prices, the Centre has started offloading onion buffer stocks in phases to states where prices are increasing over the previous months. The buffer stock is being released even in Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon wholesale mandis of onions in Maharashtra to augment the supply in these markets, the Consumer Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the states had been offered onion at Rs 21 per kg ex-storage locations. The Mother Dairy’s Safal outlets had also been supplied at Rs 26 a kg inclusive of transportation cost, it said.

As per the ministry’s data, retail onion prices are inching up slowly in the last few weeks. Onion prices were ruling at Rs 37 per kg in Delhi and Chennai, while in Mumbai it was Rs 39 a kg and Rs 43 per kg in Kolkata.

The ministry further said that late Kharif (summer) onion arrivals are steady and expected to remain till Rabi (winter) arrival from March, 2022. As of February 17, the all-India average price of onion was ruling 22.36 per cent lower than the last year, it said. Similarly, all India average retail price of potato was ruling 6.96 per cent lower at Rs 20.58/kg on February 17 from over the last month.

According to the ministry, onion prices remained substantially stable during 2021-22 due to effective market intervention through the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF).

“Potato sowing has been delayed in the southern part of West Bengal due to cyclone Jawad, however, the State reported that crop area has recovered almost to the level of last year,” the ministry said. The total crop area for 2021-22 is estimated to be comparable with that of last year, it added.

Under the PSF scheme, interest-free advances are provided to states for the creation of State-level Price Stabilisation Fund, on a 50:50 sharing basis (75:25 in case of NE States). So far six states, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal have drawn the advance and a total of Rs 164.15 crore has been released as Central share.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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