NEW DELHI: Nearly 36,000 metric tonnes of onions imported from Afghanistan at the height of a crisis fuelled by its zooming prices last December, are now rotting in the Centre’s godown’s across the country, with states unwilling to buy them. While onion prices had started skyrocketting in October, settling at between `120-`150 a kg, across India, the Centre ordered imports only in December, which cost it `50-`60 per kg.
With new crop landing in the market in January and prices cooling down, imported onions turned costlier, states have refused to purchase the stock. Unable to find buyers, government agency NAFED started disposing the stocks in the Mandis and managed to offload 40% at less than `15. The loss to the Centre has, however, been huge, admit officials.
The crisis had been sparked by unseasonal rains in onion producing states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana among others, leading to a spike in prices. By December, the price of the politically sensitive bulb shot up to `150 or more. Aiming to contain the crisis, government cleared MMTC imports of 41,950 metric tonnes against which 36,124 MT was received by January.
However, by February, just 2501 MT were lifted by states and UT’s as local supplies improved and prices crashed steeply. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Meghalaya and Jammu & Kashmir refused to buy ordered stocks, even as states like Haryana and Assam, refused to lift their allottments. Noticing that onion is perishable beyond two-three months, the Centre directed MMTC and NAFED to dispose of imported onions at the prevailing market/ mandi/ online portal rates, to avoid wastage or rotting. According to Consumer affairs ministry officials, Assam did not accept the consignments and the 296 MT stock had to be sold locally.
Total quantity supplied and accepted by states: 2501 MT
Total disposal by NAFED (including states and open market): Nearly17,000 MT