Free Press Journal

Crack down on hoarding at Lasalgaon: Centre to Maha govt



New Delhi: Concerned over spiralling onion prices, the Centre today asked the Maharashtra government to take strict action against hoarders for improving supply at Lasalgaon wholesale market in Nashik where rates have touched almost Rs 60 per kg. Lasalgaon, the Asia’s biggest wholesale market for onion, normally sets price trend for the rest of the country. The largest onion growing state of Maharashtra contributes 30 per cent to India’s total output of 18.9 million tonnes of onion.

A similar direction has been issued to other state governments as well. “We have written a letter to the Maharasthra Chief Secretary expressing concern over rising prices. We have asked to send officials to Lasalgaon to check onion availability and take adequate measures against hoarders,” Consumer Affairs Secretary C Vishwanath told reporters here.

Wholesale onion prices at Lasalgaon have increased to around Rs 60 per kg now as against Rs 15-16 per in the year-ago period, as per the official data. Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today reviewed the onion prices issue and directed the officials of his Department as well as Agriculture Department to take “quick action” to bring prices under control.

A separate meeting was held with stakeholders — SFAC, NAFED, MMTC, Mother Dairy and the Delhi gover ment — to discuss ways to boost supplies and curb price rise. In the meeting, state-run MMTC, which has floated a tender for importing 10,000 tonnes of onion, informed that the shipments can be brought by September 10. “After detailed discussion, it was decided that joint surveillance teams of Departmental Consumer Affairs and Departmental Agriculture will inspects the centres where onions are being distributed in Delhi to check on the quality, quantity and prices,” Vishwanath said.

Wholesale onion prices at Lasalgoan have been rising unabated in the last few weeks due to lower arrival of the commodity into the mandis in the wake of production shortage. Consequently, retail prices have risen sharply across the country and are currently ruling around Rs 80 per kg.

To check rising prices, the Centre has asked MMTC to import onions and has also raised minimum export price of the commodity to USD 700 per tonne from USD 425 per tonne to restrict overseas sale. That apart, central agency SFAC and Nafed are supplying onions at subsidised rate in Delhi markets below Rs 40/kg.

Total onion production is estimated at 189 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 crop year (July-June), slightly lower than 194 lakh tonnes, in previous year.

The Secretary also asked MMTC and the Delhi government to workout modalities for distribution of imported onions as well as pulses. “After assessing the requirement, we will take decision on importing more onions,” he said.

It was decided that a core team consisting of officials of Consumer Affairs, Agriculture, MMTC, SFAC and NAFED would be video-conferencing with the states, once the tenders are opened to ascertain requirements of the states and also the modalities for retail distribution, he added.

Besides onion, rising pulses prices were also discussed in the meeting. The modalities for import of tur and urad dals were discussed It was also decided that onion price review meetings will be held twice a week to take stock of the situation.